LAURINBURG — Ralph Kersey, Sheriff Shep Jones’ Republican challenger in the November general election, offered a scathing critique of Jones’ leadership of the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office during Monday’s meeting of the Scotland County Republican Party.
Kersey, a retired N.C. Highway Patrol officer and former Marine, noted the State Bureau of Investigation inquiry into some $50,000 collected and spent by Jones’ office — without county approval — for deputies using county vehicles in off-duty security work. He also offered the last year’s unauthorized purchase of eight new patrol vehicles as evidence that the sheriff’s office needs new leadership.
“I truly believe that this sheriff has forgotten that he works for the people, that the people don’t serve him and he’s supposed to serve us,” Kersey said. “He’s shown it so many times.”
If elected, Kersey said that he will personally take responsibility for any mismanagement or miscommunications that occur in the department. He also plans to change the department’s hiring process so as to bring down turnover rates in the jail, office, and on patrol and ameliorate the expenses incurred in training new deputies.
“Shep is a boss, and I am a leader,” he said. “I will always accept blame, because that’s my job as sheriff, and then I’ll fix it.”
Kersey promised to be hands-on as sheriff, paring down the chain of command at the top, eschewing a personal county vehicle, and riding along with his deputies to develop stronger personal relationships within the department.
“I’ll probably be one of the first sheriffs you’ve ever seen on the road so much working,” he said. “If we’re shorthanded, this sheriff will come in to fill the slot because that’s what I like to do. I like to work rather than the office stuff.”
Also speaking at Monday’s meeting was Tom McInnis, a Rockingham auctioneer running against incumbent Gene McLaurin to represent District 25 in the state Senate. McInnis promised to bring “common sense” to the “chaos” taking place in the General Assembly, and accused McLaurin of tailoring his platform and statements to best please his audience in a given county or city.
“I’m going to tell you right up front, if you elect me I’m not going to please all of you all of the time,” McInnis said. “But I’m going to tell you one thing: whatever story I sing in Maxton will be the same story I sing in Landis, which is on the other side of the district. I’m not going to disgrace and dishonor my family by being a flip-flopper.”
McInnis placed blame with Democratic leadership for the high levels of poverty and unemployment in Scotland and surrounding counties. He also applauded the partnership between Richmond Community College and the Scotland County Schools that has resulted in Scotland Early College High School as well as, in the coming school year, an expanded selection of technical classes taught at Scotland High School for college credit by RCC faculty.
“You can’t make money when there is no money,” he said. “We’ve got to create prosperity in Scotland County and in Richmond County and in Anson County, and the way we’ve got to do it is to put our foot down on education. We’ve got to make things happen in education.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.