Election watch: Jeff Curry [With Video]
By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer | 7/27/2012
It’s not the years of experience, but the experience in the years that makes the difference, Jeff Curry said.
Curry, 40, Ottawa, now serves as Franklin County sheriff and hopes to continue serving after the Aug. 7 primary. After being appointed to the office following Sheriff Craig Davis’ retirement in 2010, Curry is seeking to win his first election this year.
“I am the only candidate that has the experience and understands the unique challenges of serving as sheriff,” Curry said. “The sheriff contends with the management of the jail, communication and civil processes.
“Police departments do not face these challenges,” he said. “Furthermore, I am the only candidate who has served the majority of his career in a leadership and administrative role.”
Curry has made a career out of serving the residents of Franklin County. For the past 18 years, Curry has worked in the sheriff’s office, from school resource officer to jailer and detective, and now as sheriff. The different roles he has played in the sheriff’s office, Curry said, have allowed him to gain valuable experience and leadership for the future.
“I have made this my career and made this my passion and I’ve lived a life of service and want to continue to serve,” Curry, who also served 18 years in the Marines, said. “I’ve built myself up through the ranks with some very good tutelage over the years and definitely feel that I’m not only experienced by prepared to serve in this capacity for quite some time.”
Curry also has served on the Ottawa Recreation Commission board and was a precinct committeeman for the eighth precinct.
Crime rates change on a daily basis, Curry said, making it difficult to determine what is the worst crime problem in Franklin County. Illegal drug use, burglary and scrap metal theft all have become problematic for the sheriff’s office in recent years, Curry said, but each crime report is important and handled with professionalism.
“A victim of crime, no matter what that crime, is still a victim,” Curry said. “If you’re a victim of it, it’s a problem and it’s a big problem”
A key piece in solving and preventing crimes in the county, Curry said, is a willingness to partner with residents who can serve as eyes and ears in the county with education programs.
“Law enforcement has limited enforcement options, therefore one of our greatest tools is information,” he said. “When we observe a problem trend, we do our best to inform the public of ways they can protect themselves and we provide our youth with the facts they need to make informed life decisions. A lot of this is accomplished by partnering with schools, churches and civic organizations throughout the community.”
Besides the law enforcement duties of the sheriff, Curry has been entrusted with developing and presenting a budget for all three departments within the sheriff’s office — the sheriff’s office, jail and dispatch — with a budget totalling more than $3 million. In the past two years, Curry said, he has worked to lower the budget and came in 8 percent under budget in 2011.
“How we do that is just being fiscally responsible,” Curry said. “Another way is utilizing resources outside of our general fund budget; applying for grant funds. When we have an opportunity to take a drug dealer’s car, we take a drug deale’rs car and then we sell that car and we utilize that money to provide service to Franklin County.”
A portion of the sheriff’s budget went to a new camera system in the jail, which Curry said had numerous blind spots, did not record and was outdated. The sheriff used money from the jail budget — which does not have to be approved by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. However, Curry said, the budget is open record and can be requested for review by any resident.
“In 2010, we worked very hard and we saved over $100,000 in our jail budget, that was money saved. We spent $64,000 and we upgraded that camera system,” Curry said.
The new system now has more than 60 high-definition cameras that can record both video and audio, leaving fewer blind spots in the jail. That helps keep both the jailers and the inmates safe, Curry said, adding that since the cameras were installed, the office has not had any lawsuits, and complaints are easily assessed.
The sheriff’s office has become an extension of Curry’s family, he said, and he takes the office’s duties and responsibilities seriously.
“I have lived a life of service and decided a long time ago to continue that service in law enforcement and criminal justice,” Curry said.