After learning of Franklin County Sheriff Jeff Curry’s intention to leave his post effective April 1, Cathy McClay, vice chair of the Republican committee, said the group already is organizing a meeting between its officers to discuss the coming nomination (which will be sent to the governor for appointment). But before the committee can take formal action toward choosing a new sheriff, the group must first hear that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has accepted Curry’s resignation, McClay said.
“We’ll have an executive board [meeting] and then we’ll contact all of our members,” McClay said Thursday. “We’re going to get organized, get everything in order and we’ll go from there. ... [The committee’s appointment] will be open to anyone — whoever wants to apply for the position.”
Similar to the appointment process that followed former Franklin County Sheriff Craig Davis’ resignation announcement in 2010 (which ultimately led to Curry being tapped as Davis’ successor), the Franklin County Republican Precinct Committee eventually will vote on whichever candidates file with the party.
Several names have been publicly suggested for the appointment process, including Davis, who served as Franklin County sheriff for 9 1/2 years; Jeff Richards, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Central Committee and an Overland Park police detective; and Rick Geist, a retired Ottawa police detective who served the department for 30 years and ran against Curry in the 2012 Republican primary election.
Geist, Ottawa, confirmed Friday that he plans to apply for the position with the committee. The appointed sheriff’s primary duty must be focused on building rapport with the county’s residents, Geist said.
“The main thing is that they’ve got to build the integrity back up, get the community behind them and let the community know that they are working for them and it will take some time to do that,” Geist said. “I’m wanting to build the office’s trust up for the community.”
Next election in 2014
One key difference between the resignations of Davis and Curry, however, is the time frame involved. Davis resigned in June 2010, well into the second year of his term. In contrast, Curry, who was elected in November 2012, will have served only three months of his four-year term when his resignation becomes effective April 1. As such, a state law relating to vacancies in the office of sheriff comes into effect.
The statue — KS 19-804 — states that if a vacancy in the office occurs before May 1 of the second year of the term, the committee’s appointment lasts only until the next general election, which would take place in November 2014, Janet Paddock, Franklin County clerk, confirmed Friday.
The nomination and election of candidates for the 2014 vote would be done in the same manner as a regular term, according to the statue, with candidates vying for their party’s nomination in a primary election before moving on to a general election matchup. The winner of the November 2014 sheriff’s race would only serve the remainder of Curry’s original term, Paddock said.
Caleb Correll, chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Party, said the local group plans to actively and “aggressively” recruit candidates to run for the sheriff position in 2014. While he remains hopeful, Correll said the party faces a challenge in finding a viable sheriff candidate.
“We definitely want someone to run on the Democratic ticket in 2014,” Correll said. “It’s hard to find Democratic candidates in Franklin County in general, but especially for sheriff because most of the law enforcement community is members of the Republican Party.”
Correll added that local Democrats were dissatisfied with Curry, and hope to offer voters in the area an alternative candidate.
“We feel very disappointed with the ways that things have turned out with the current sheriff,” he said. “We want to be able to give voters a chance to vote for someone else.”
Until his resignation is accepted by Brownback, Curry will remain on administrative leave to allow for an orderly transition of operations to Undersheriff Steve Lunger, who temporarily will serve as sheriff until the Franklin County Republican Central Committee appoints a new leader to the position.
Sherriene Jones-Sontag, communications director for Brownback, said Friday afternoon that the governor’s office had not yet received Curry’s letter of resignation. Once it’s received, she said, the governor’s office will notify the Franklin County Republican Central Committee.