ANDOVER – Employee turnover within the Butler County Sheriff’s Department has been the talk of this election season, and for the four candidates seeking the top law enforcement office, it is one of the biggest issues facing whoever takes over in January.
Incumbent Sheriff Kelly Herzet faces three challengers in today’s Republican party primary, including retired Wichita Police Department Lieutenant Walker Andrews, longtime Butler County Deputy Curtis Cox, and Mike Holton, a former deputy and current officer with the El Dorado Police Department. Among all four of the candidates, the turnover issue seems to strike a chord with voters.
Herzet says that he believes the reason for the turnover is simply the employment cycle taking it’s toll on the department.
“You have to realize, over the last four years we have had a lot of people retire, and have had to bring a lot of new people on board.” Herzet said.
At least one of the Sheriff’s challengers countered that the turnover issue went beyond people deciding to retire.
“Over the last two and a half years, there has been an unprecedented amount of turnover in that department. We’ve heard it has been because of retirement, we’ve heard that it has been because of pay. The fact is in the last thirty years, we haven’t seen this number of people leave the sheriff’s department even with retirements. in all the years I worked with the department, the pay was the lowest of any agency in the county, and we still didn’t have that type of turnover.”
Holton said among the people that left, he was one of them because he did not have confidence in the ethics of the department’s leadership.
“We have to be able to retain people in this department.” Holton said. “We have to have that tenure to serve the people of this county.”
All four candidates agreed that no matter the reasons for the turnover, that pay for Sheriff’s Department employees has to be higher.
“We know that right now, the starting pay for a deputy is $14.70 an hour on the road. That is to protect and serve everyone in our community.” said candidate Curtis Cox. “We need to voice our opinions to our county commissioners so we can keep and retain experienced law enforcement officers. We need to step up as a community and start fairly paying these men and women what they deserve to be paid.”
Andrews reiterated the same concerns Cox voiced.
“It’s tough with these people. How many people would want to drive these places for $14.70 an hour.” Andrews asked. “Would you want to do it? We have to back the blue, folks. They took an oath to die for each and every one of you.”
Herzet says that the issue of deputy pay has been a constant fight between him and the Butler County Commission.
With no Democratic opponent in November, the winner of today’s primary will automatically win the Sheriff’s race.