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Cecil County Sheriff Election: ‘Team’ Focus in GOP Primary– Scott Adams Promotes ‘Partnerships’ to Solve Drug Crisis

April 13, 2014
By Nancy Schwerzler

A Cecil Times Special Report

In the 2014 elections for Cecil County Sheriff—always one of the most hotly contested races in local politics—there is a new watchword among the leading candidates in the June Republican primary: “team.” While past election campaigns have focused on the individual candidate for Sheriff, this year the focus is on the ‘team’ of senior officials who would run the law enforcement agency if a particular candidate were elected.

In lengthy interviews with Cecil Times, candidates Scott Adams and Chris Sutton outlined their own and team members’ credentials, policing philosophies, and plans for Cecil County’s prime law enforcement agency. In two articles, their views will be explored—with Adams going first after a coin toss determined the order of interview publication.
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“TEAM ADAMS”—Campaign Motto: “Leadership, Community, Safety”

SCOTT ADAMS, Sheriff: B.S. degrees in Criminal Justice and Psychology, Towson University; Sergeant and supervisor of Sheriff’s School Resources unit; former K9 officer, road patrol, investigator, instructor; named 2009 Maryland State Deputy of the Year by Maryland Sheriff’s Association. More than 20 years with Cecil County Sheriff’s department. Volunteer youth sports coach and founder of youth sports league.

GERRY WIDDOES, Chief Deputy: B.S. in Criminal Justice, Wilmington University; Law degree, University of Maryland; former supervisor of Drug Task Force where he was named “Drug Investigator of the Decade;” instructor at State Police Academy. Recently retired after 25 years service with Cecil County Sheriff’s department. Singerly Fire Company longtime volunteer and officer.

GEORGE F. STANKO, Major for Law Enforcement: Associates degree in Law Enforcement/Corrections, Cecil College; Associates degree in Fire Sciences Technology, Cecil College; graduate of New Jersey State Police Command and Leadership Academy. Newark (DE) Police Department, Lieutenant in charge of Criminal Investigations Division, former commander of SWAT team; previously served more than five years with Cecil County Sheriff’s department as a deputy. Life member of Charlestown volunteer fire company.
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Scott Adams says he is running for Cecil County Sheriff because “I feel it is a critical time now for our county and the department…We need to move forward in a progressive direction.” He feels he has assembled a top-flight team to carry out that mission, and “teamwork is important in anything you do.” But it is crucial in law enforcement leadership to be backed by people “who know how to get the job done” and will work together in a “collaborative effort,” he added.

Adams also takes that approach to what he sees as the top problem in Cecil County: illegal drugs and addiction. He speaks of developing “partnerships” with state and local agencies, including the public schools, health department, social services agencies, churches and community groups to tackle the drug problem with a multi-pronged approach.

The soft-spoken Adams gets animated and passionate on the subject of “partnerships” to address the drug crisis: “I could go on all day about this,” he said with a smile.

“I’m a big prevention person,” Adams said, adding that “Law enforcement alone doesn’t win the battle” against drugs. During his work supervising the Sheriff’s agency’s cops-in-schools program, Adams has worked collaboratively with school officials to develop “safe schools” policies and standards, including procedures that were used in a recent school bomb threat that required rapid evacuation and re-location of students and teachers. He wants to expand those relationships into a broader drug education and prevention presence in the schools.

Adams, who has also been an instructor in the police DARE program to educate youth about the dangers of drugs and avoiding risky behaviors, said he would also develop initiatives to draw community organizations into the fight against drugs. He and Widdoes spoke at past drug awareness forums and were disappointed with low turnouts, convincing him that more direct outreach is needed. He said he has talked with “faith-based” groups and even “mobile ministries” about taking the anti-drug message directly into local communities in co-ordination with the Sheriff’s department.

As a former K-9 unit officer, Adams welcomed the recent addition of two police dogs—currently in training with their handlers—to the force. He said the dogs will be an important asset in patrolling schools to keep them drug-free.

The county recently received a federal High Impact Drug Trafficking Area designation, which will bring in federal aid and resources. And a joint Drug Task Force including county deputies, State Police and Elkton town police members is still firmly in place, despite State Police backing out of some regional task forces in other areas of the Eastern Shore. But Adams wants to re-deploy more county deputies to the Task Force.

In his campaign platform, Adams declares, “Drugs are the root of all evil” and destroy communities and families, “deter business” from locating in the area and “tax every resource in the county.” And the drug problem, he said, is “Economics 101—supply and demand—we need to attack the supply and curb the demand.”

When it comes to on-the-street battles against drug crimes, “I want to create some havoc,” Adams said. He would revitalize the Street Level Crime unit of the Sheriff’s department which has been nearly extinct in recent years as the agency lacked the staffing to respond to citizen’s calls for service and had to re-deploy deputies to road patrols.

In the current county budget, five new deputies were authorized, although their hiring was delayed by a last-minute budget cut imposed by the Cecil County Council. (Previously, the County Commissioners had refused to hire any additional deputies for over four years.) The new Fiscal 2015 budget proposed by County Executive Tari Moore includes one additional deputy—a cut from the two new deputies requested by retiring Sheriff Barry Janney.

With a currently authorized force of 89 deputies, Adams said the department is still understaffed by national law enforcement standards, which indicate the county force should have at least 20 additional deputies.(Stanko noted that the Newark DE police department, with a much smaller patrol area and population, has a force of 68 officers.)

But with the budget and political realities of Cecil County government, Adams acknowledges that getting the financial support for such a staff boost is unlikely so more creative approaches will be needed to make the most of available resources.

Adams wants to work on upgrading professional standards and training opportunities for deputies so the department receives national accreditation, which can bring in additional grants and resources to help support the agency. And re-vamping staffing schedules could improve deputy morale and provide greater efficiency in putting deputies on the streets, he added.

The current eight-hour schedules and rotating shifts have been unpopular with deputies and Adams and his team are committed to developing a new system, with either 10-hour or 12-hour shifts. Adams said he is researching other police agencies’ policies and weighing the pros and cons of either scheduling option to ensure that public safety is the top priority.

Widdoes said that start times could be staggered so that there was some overlap in shifts, with “hot calls” going to the new shift instead of a fatigued soon-to-be-off-duty team. That would provide better and more efficient service to the public, he added, while also helping reduce overtime pay costs for taxpayers.

The Sheriff’s department has one of the more complex budgets of any county agency, with law enforcement, the detention center and a work-release program all under the department’s umbrella but with separate fiscal accounting requirements. The Sheriff’s department has a business manager to deal with many fiscal tracking issues while Widdoes has experience in fiscal oversight as a former trustee of the Cecil County Public Pension Plan, overseeing $28 million in investment assets.

(Widdoes, who currently receives pension payments from the county, said he would put his pension on “freeze” status so as not to collect payments while working again for the Sheriff’s agency and has consulted with the county’s human resources director about implementing that process if Adams is elected.)

Adams said that if elected, he planned to retain the newly-named director of the county’s Detention Center, Major Randy Rudy. Rudy, a former state trooper with the rank of Captain and Aberdeen town police chief, recently testified in depth before the Cecil County Council about the center’s new programs for inmates including drug and alcohol counseling and outreach with faith-based counseling groups. However, he pointed out that most of the inmates are being held pre-trial and cannot be compelled to participate.

In his Facebook social media postings, Adams has emphasized that he is “not a politician” and that unlike some other un-named candidates, he has been fully focused on law enforcement, not political functions: “Leadership is more than just campaigning; it’s about getting the job done.” He also notes that he is a “lifelong Republican.”

Clearly, the reference is to his chief rival in the Republican primary, Chris Sutton, who ran for Sheriff as a Democrat in the past two elections but lost to Republican Barry Janney in the general election. Sutton has changed his party affiliation to Republican for the 2014 elections, although he has stated that at the time he shifted his party allegiance he had not yet formally decided to run again. (However, he had kept his campaign finance committee alive and held fundraisers to benefit that committee.)

Adams is a political newcomer in his first campaign but he has mustered impressive financial support from a variety of small donors, especially from residents and businesses in the Rising Sun area. He attributed his local support to people knowing him from his involvement in coaching youth sports teams and working with community groups in the area.

State elections board records show that since he filed his candidacy last year, he has raised $31,067 in contributions and fundraiser ticket sales. The report, filed in January, also showed that he spent $25,552, primarily on yard signs, billboards, printing expenses and related campaign costs. As a first-time candidate for Sheriff, Adams has had to work on getting his name out before the public but his fundraising represents a substantial amount for a new candidate. He plans to hold a golf fundraiser soon to bolster his campaign fund—which had a cash balance of $5,544 in January—before the upcoming late June primary election.

The crowded GOP primary field—with five candidates—“makes things unpredictable,” Adams said. The primary is also months earlier this year than in the past, when the primary elections were usually held in September, so there is less time to get a candidate’s message out to voters. (In the Democratic primary, there are four candidates seeking that party’s nomination for Sheriff.)

Adams said that while he is not a “politician” he respects the political process and would work with the county government and other elected officials in a constructive way to further the Sheriff’s Department’s work. The Sheriff’s Department “needs to sell itself better,” both to county elected officials and the public, than it has in the past, he said.

“Everybody agrees that drugs are the county’s number one problem,” Adams said. The solution “won’t come overnight” and it will require “partnerships” to tackle the fight against drugs and addiction on multiple fronts.

While others may “talk about” the problem, Adams said, “I think I’m the person who knows how to get the job done and take our department into the future.”

Adams’ campaign website is here: http://www.scottadamsforsheriff.com/

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7 Responses to Cecil County Sheriff Election: ‘Team’ Focus in GOP Primary– Scott Adams Promotes ‘Partnerships’ to Solve Drug Crisis

  1. John U. on April 13, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    I completely agree with most of the proposals to combat substance abuse. I have put forth many of these same ideas as part of my campaign platform. I believe we need to do this in a comprehensive fashion to be fully effective; we cannot continue to piecemeal this problem.

    In addition, I think that our Sherriffs department is doing a phenomenal job considering the lack of resources being provided to this department.

    (Editor’s Note: the commenter is a Democratic candidate for County Council.)

  2. Tiny Tim on April 14, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    First and foremost, If you need a “Team” you clearly do not have the talent or ability to do the job by relying on others to get the job done for you. Secondly, where is the money coming from to pay Widdoes and the new staff? Taxpayers or dismissing those that served for years. To say, “I am Not a politician” is clearly NOT true. You filed for election and generated finances. What does that make you? A POLITICIAN. Economics 101 would best serve businesses. Problem Solving 101 is needed. Identify the problem; “Drugs and Addiction”. Start with prevention in schools. The current D.A.R.E and Sheriff Resource Officer program has clearly failed (And we know who is charge of that). Drugs are in our schools. This has been increasing for years do to the lack proactive policing by the Sheriff’s Office School Resource Program. This is clearly stated in the Health Resources in Action(HRiA)report and Cecil County Health Department report prepared for Cecil County Council. ..

    Parents know this but the Schools are in denial mode.(Probably to protect the School Resource Officer candidate for Sheriff. The Sheriff’s Office has been eroding for the last terms. It’s no secret that the current Sheriff is supporting “Adams”. To embrace this same mechanism would yield continued disaster for Cecil residents. Lastly [Cecil Times], is this advertisement being paid for by “Adams For Sheriff” or being financed by the Cecil County Business for Better Government? I’m confused because there are nine(9) Candidates running and you only interview two(2). Plenty of quality out there, if you choose to look. But please serve your bologna to the poor, I’m full.

    • Cecil Voter on April 15, 2014 at 7:34 pm

      Mr. Gerczak should learn how to spell before he criticizes a good person like Scott Adams. Scott has a plan and has been making sure our schools are safe for many years. I love it when idiots make up problems to prove their invalid points. Folks who can’t even raise their own children have no business telling other people how to raise theirs.

      • William Gerczak on April 19, 2014 at 2:14 pm

        To the people of Cecil County. It has come to my attention that improper commentary is occurring about candidates, myself included. I rarely engage or involve myself in such gossip, but after being made aware and viewing this commentary my nature compels me to respond. It is obvious that “Tiny Tim” has either visited my site or read my letter to editor, in turn, twisting it to attack another candidate, namely “Scott Adams”. As for myself, I believe that all of the candidates, including Scott, have good intentions to better Cecil County. With that said, I do NOT promote or “bash” other candidates and I would ask those responsible to stop. It serves no purpose.
        On another note, I do expect to be challenged on issues that I bring forward but I do NOT expect my children or family to be attacked. If someone wants to get personal with me, I’m easy to find. I don’t hide behind false names or Emails.
        Bill Gerczak

  3. Tax Increase Objector on April 15, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Translation to John U’s comment: more spending=higher taxes, in no particular order.

  4. JR Ewing on April 17, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Great site but reading italics is tiring on the eyes.

    Editor’s Note: We agree. Every so often our uploading process mysteriously converts everything to italic font, and we have enlisted a tech guru to figure out why and how to correct it long-term. In the interim, we are boldfacing the text as well to try to make it more readable.

  5. cecil voter and mother on April 18, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Attacking a child? I expected more from an officer who “works” in the school system with children and coaches baseball. Let’s stick to the facts, Rising Sun High has major drug issues even with Adams in the building…

    With your prestigious record as an Investigater, Detective and Interrogator, why would you resort to tactics such as this?

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THANK YOU, Cecil County voters, for endorsing my campaign for Delegate.
--Alan McCarthy