By MEGAN TILK
St. Joseph News-Press
When it comes to running a sheriff’s department, Mike Strong has the know how.The Benton High School graduate and St. Joseph native has been Buchanan County’s sheriff for almost four years. Mr. Strong is up for re-election in the Aug. 5 primary against fellow Democratic candidate Ron Fisher.“It was always my intent to run again,” Mr. Strong said in regards to a possible re-election.While his first goal is to win the election, he also puts the re-organization of the department, increasing the patrol division and cost saving measures on his to-do list.“We’ve made a lot of gains but there is always somewhere to go,” Mr. Strong said.
Under his supervision the Sheriff’s Department has landed under budget several times. For 2007, the department came in $176,000 under budget even after a cut in maintenance funding, Mr. Strong said. A change to the food inmates are served saved $40,000 in a matter of two months.
While he remains proud of the fact that he was able to reduce the department’s accumulated holiday time by 80 percent, he plans to continue that trend, which he said has saved the department more than $200,000.
County records show a more than 5,000-hour decline in holiday hours from December 2006 to May 2008. However, the number of vacation hours in that time period went up slightly, by about 1,600 to 23,173 hours.
By increasing the patrol division Mr. Strong hopes to leave a better presence on the streets and roads of the county.
“When we make a stop for a traffic violation, a lot of times we find drugs or other things,” Mr. Strong said.
Mr. Strong’s competition, including two Republican candidates, have said they’d get rid of part or all of the department’s fleet of sport utility vehicles. With no intentions of changing the SUVs deputies currently drive, Mr. Strong stands firm against his opposition.
“If it’s a case of a rolled tractor or a washed out road we can absolutely get to people,” Mr. Strong said. “We can’t afford two fleets to have cars and the Durangos.”
Mr. Strong also prides himself that just three weeks after he took office in 2005 an online sex offender registry was put in place under his supervision.
Drug Strike Force Capt. Mike Donaldson stands behind Mr. Strong in his quest for re-election.
“He keeps his campaign promises,” Mr. Donaldson said. “He’s got over 30 years in law enforcement including the last 15 in management and the last four as sheriff.”
Mr. Donaldson says he has witnessed the gains within the department under Mr. Strong’s leadership.
“He’s been under budget the last two years and has taken some unfair shots,” Mr. Donaldson said.
Mr. Strong feels that he’s the most qualified and has the most experience and that he has close hometown roots.
“My family has served in this community for over 30 years with a good reputation,” he said.
Mr. Strong hopes the community will give him a chance to complete the job by allowing him to continue on as sheriff for four more years.
“He’s done a good job, scratch that, he’s done a great job,” Mr. Donaldson said