Candidates running for Shelby County Sheriff part 1 - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Candidates running for Shelby County Sheriff part 1

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SHELBY COUNTY - AL -

Shelby County is looking for its 53rd Sheriff. Sheriff Chris Curry is retiring and will not seek re-election.

Now, four candidates -- all on the republican ticket -- will vie for his seat.

Those candidates are Kip Cole, Larry McDow, Rick Needham and John Samaniego.

Each candidate brings a variety of backgrounds and experience to the race. Many of them see the same issues facing Shelby County voters.

We begin our look at the candidates with John Samaniego and Rick Needham.

John Samaniego has served as chief deputy of the Shelby County Sheriff's Office for the last ten years.

"We've worked hard together here and have developed quite a bit. I consider our agency one of the best in the state."

Samaniego has 37 years of law enforcement experience.

Beginning his career in Tuscaloosa and working in the West Alabama Drug Task Force before becoming part of Sheriff Curry's staff.

Some of the issues he believes need to be addressed include: repairing the relationship with the county commission and tackling budget issues.

"The sheriff and the commission have had some ideological differences. You have to work together. I look for positive things going forward, I really do," says Samaniego.

Another top priority, dealing the heroin crisis in Shelby County. He wants to ramp up the fight by focusing on prevention.

"Eighty percent of our crime is drug related, or substance abuse related," says Samaniego. "We have to look to the children to ramp up our prevention angle."

He believes he's the right fit for sheriff for these reasons: "Experience is what I have that nobody else has. Number two, the relationships that I have in place."

Another candidate, Rick Needham.

"I feel like it's something that I'm called to do, and I'd like to do it."

Needham currently has an investigative firm which specializes in insurance fraud. He's been in business for more than twenty years

He believes his business knowledge and experience will help him if elected sheriff.

"I think I can make a difference by thinking out of the box and taking some innovative ideas and applying it to this position," says Needham.

Needham says he comes from a law enforcement background. His father was a Birmingham police officer.

He graduated from the police academy in Montgomery in 1985 and served as a police officer in Auburn.

"I want to get the community involved. Anyone can manage from the top down. I want to lead from the bottom up I have a heart for the deputies and their families."

For Needham, the top priority in Shelby County is school safety.

He believes it will take 'out of the box thinking' to help with the budget issues and to repair relationships with the county commission.

"We come up with other creative ideas that aren't a burden on the taxpayer, to get these things done."

For Needham, running for sheriff is a calling.

"I'm doing this to serve the community. I feel called, I'm leaving a successful business to go in and do this. My heart is in it. I want to be the sheriff for the community."

No democrats are in this race. The primary is June 3.

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