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Brown County Sheriff hopefuls try to separate themselves at Tea Party meeting

MT. ORAB – On Jan. 16, candidates vying to be the Republican nominee for Brown County Sheriff met with the Brown County Tea Party for a question and answer session.

In a packed house at the Brown County Public Library in Mt. Orab, all four Republican candidates, David Benjamin, the current Chief of Police in Winchester; Gordon Ellis, the current Chief of Police at Lake Waynoka; Reggie McKenzie, a Mt. Orab police officer; and Carl Smith, the current Chief Deputy for the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, were all in attendance to take questions.

Candidates were asked questions from Tea Party President Sandra Reeder, Vice President Charlie Kane, and Treasurer Jim Hile on topics ranging from their stance on the Second Amendment to the current situation at the Brown County Adult Detention Center. Reeder said she was glad to see the event filled the meeting room of the Brown County Public Library and hoped it helped voters in the decision process.

“I am pleased with the attendance,” Reeder said. “I hoped that it helped to narrowed the field down. I think all of us believe that all four of the candidates are super candidates. It’s going to be tough, even for me, to decide who I am going to vote for, but that was the purpose of this: to give everyone a chance to hear different [candidates] speak.”

Hile said the questions were agreed upon prior to the event. The Tea Party sent the candidates the questions to give them an opportunity to know what was coming and to avoid any ‘got ya’ questions that may come about. The audience portion, however, remained organic, but did not throw any candidate off guard.

“I think it was great,” Smith said. “I think every body up here had some great ideas. It gave everybody in the room a lot of details about us to make an informed decision on who to vote for.”

During the audience portion of the Q&A, Smith had the most questions directed toward him. Smith said the likely reason was because unlike any of the other candidates, he currently works at the BCSO. But the few questions posed about the BCSO did not hurt any of the other candidates who did not have the inside information.

“Some of the questions the audience asked fulfilled what people were looking to hear from us,” McKenzie said. “I think the venue was good and some of the questions were very, very good.”

McKenzie said he may not have been as articulate of a speaker as some of the other candidates, but said it is more important to be a listener of what the public wants to know than to be a talking head who speaks well.

“I am the kind of person who likes to research and resolve the issues instead of talking about them,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie hoped his answers could sway voters in his direction in dealing with the issues facing Brown County now and in the future.

For Ellis, some have raised his concerns about his ability to maintain being both an Brigadier General in the National Guard while being a full-time sheriff in the county. He squashed those concerns by comparing it to others who serve both their county and elected office. Ellis used Ripley native Steve Stivers as an emample. He is Colonel in the Ohio National Guard and a member of the House of Representatives for the Congress of the United States. Ellis said he had also worked 31 years in law enforcement and had found a way to balance both service to country and service to community.

“I thought it was well organized and had questions,” Ellis said. “I was impressed by the level on questions we got from the audience. It was obvious that people had been doing a lot of thinking and I thought that was good.”

For Benjamin, he said the questions asked by the Tea Party as well as those that come from the audience helped move the conversation forward.

“I thought it went well, I really enjoyed the questions and I think they were good questions that really pertained to the issues we are facing here in Brown County,” Benjamin said. “Unfortunately I think to get all the Q&A going on and all the issues facing the Sheriff Department it would take us about three weeks to answer them all.”

Benjamin said the only thing he wished he could have addressed was his relationship with Jesus Christ.

“I thing I didn’t get to address and I try to address every point in time is my faith,” Benjamin said. “The number one person in my life is Jesus Christ and I follow him in everything I do in life. Now I’ve been asked by others to kind of back off my faith, but I refuse to. I just want people to know where I do stand and that is a big part of my life.”

All of the candidates seemed pleased with their opportunity to share with the public their views on how the office should be ran and what standards a county sheriff should be held to. Each candidate offers a unique background and experience to move the conversation forward.

Complete audio of the event is available below via SoundCloud.

Sheriff candidates David Benjamin, Gordon Ellis, Reggie McKenzie, and Carl Smith answered questions from both the Tea Party and citizens as part of a question and answer session in Mt. Orab on Jan. 16.
http://ripleybee.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_IMG_99848.jpgSheriff candidates David Benjamin, Gordon Ellis, Reggie McKenzie, and Carl Smith answered questions from both the Tea Party and citizens as part of a question and answer session in Mt. Orab on Jan. 16. Brian Durham | Civitas Media

By Brian Durham

bdurham@civitasmedia.com

Reach Brian Durham at 937-378-6161 or on Twitter @brianD1738.

VideoID: Sheriff Candidates Q&A

VideoType: soundcloud
URL: https://soundcloud.com/briandurham/19700106-220812a

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Video Caption: Hear the candidates in their own words

Video Credit: Brian Durham

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