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The Wilson County sheriff’s race is on this year’s ballot. Incumbent Calvin Woodard Jr., a Democrat, faces Republican challenger Kevin Raper. Woodard is seeking a third term and this is Raper’s first time running for office.
The Wilson Times surveyed the candidates on relevant issues in the race and presents their responses of 100 words or fewer in a continuing series of candidate questionnaires ahead of the general election on Nov. 6.
What is your plan of action to combat the rise of drug use and overdoses as a result of the opioid crisis?
RAPER: The rise in drug activity is a great concern of mine, and one of the main initiatives I plan to focus on. My intent is to interact and work hard with local, county and state law enforcement agencies to help foster safer communities. Awareness initiatives and programs need to be readily available to educate family and friends on the signs and symptoms of addiction. Working together collectively to build stronger bonds among all the citizens, emergency personnel, community leaders, churches and so forth. We need a community-based advisory committee to ensure citizens’ needs are accomplished.
WOODARD: As the sheriff of Wilson County, I have committed this office in suppressing the drug issue in Wilson County. We’ve conducted major criminal campaigns and dismantled drug distribution efforts by dealers by seeking state and federal prosecution. We have recovery coaches in the detention center and narcotics division as we work with facilities to assist those in the recovery process. All personnel have been trained in crisis intervention, opioid abuse outpatient risk, identification and stratification and opioid use and abuse landscape. Our goal is to prevent the victim’s physical and psychological reliance on opioids through a successful recovery.
What would be your top priorities as Wilson County’s sheriff?
RAPER: Communication. I plan to engage in an open dialogue, as my door will always be open to the needs of my staff and the needs of the citizens of Wilson County. Through active listening from an advisory committee, we can establish policies and procedures to ensure all needs are met. School safety is paramount; school resource officers are pivotal to its success. I believe the sheriff’s office also needs to be a part of the Tar River Regional Drug Task Force and we need to have an active interdiction team. The county animal shelter needs to be worked hand in hand with all parties.
WOODARD: As the sheriff, my duty is to enforce the laws of the state of North Carolina. One of my top priorities is to continue school safety initiatives as well as combat the opioid and drug issues in Wilson County. I will continue to enhance the GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) Program, Project RIDE (Realistic Impaired Driving Education) and PATHS (Providing Alternative Thinking Strategies) programs to engage our youth in making good decisions, drug prevention, importance of education and continuing good moral character. I will continue our focus on crime prevention and continue active investigations to lower the crime rate. The sheriff’s office is in the process of seeking national accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
How will your work and life experiences guide you in the role of sheriff?
RAPER: I started working at the age of 14 on a Wilson County farm, learned the value of hard work and getting dirty. I have had my share of life struggles, as I am working hard to be a successful business owner, husband, and father. Five years ago, I hit a turning point and fully dedicated my life to Jesus Christ and vowed to serve him. I can relate to many citizens in the county, as I am just an ordinary guy, wanting the best law enforcement coverage for my family. God uses ordinary people for extraordinary things, and I am that guy running for sheriff. I believe in a transparent office and meeting the needs of the citizens. I have had numerous meetings with many sheriffs across the state, gathered concerns and take-aways. All I know is how to work hard, never give up and keep pushing forward. God bless us all.
WOODARD: I have been a law enforcement officer all of my adult life. I have received extensive law enforcement and organizational leadership training and have utilized this training toward the goals of the sheriff’s office. My leadership skills and direction has enabled the sheriff’s office to continue its focus on the safety of our citizens as well as the safety of the deputies and detention officers. I believe that leadership, knowledge, experience and motivation are detrimental in ensuring a progressive law enforcement agency capable of producing positive results within the community.
What additional measures do you think are needed to ensure school safety for teachers and students?
RAPER: I feel that all schools should have a school resource officer, not just the middle and high schools. Every high, middle and elementary school should have an officer on the location. Not only do they serve in a law enforcement capacity, but they also serve as a role model to students. Precautionary measures can be implemented working with the school administration. Training for the staff is key as they are the first line, more trained SROs and undercover options can be explored.
WOODARD: Wilson County Schools have performed site-security measures for each educational facility. In addition, the sheriff’s office conducts active assailant drills at our local schools to ensure the safety of all educational/support staff and our children. Sheriff’s office canines conduct drug, article and explosive-precursor searches throughout the school year. SROs have received training to recognize behavioral patterns that would result in bullying and/or other forms of violence. Deputies conduct daily security checks at all schools, and we investigate all threats made toward an educational facility. Awareness, collaboration with school officials and communication are key factors in promoting efficient school safety.