Candidates Larry Black and Gary Sisk will face each other in a runoff election Tuesday, Aug. 21. The winner is expected to face a write-in candidate in the general election in November, but election observers are predicting that next week's runnoff winner will easily win in November.
Black and Sisk were the two top vote-getters in the July 31 general primary, with 3,808 votes going to Black and 1,956 votes going to Sisk.
On Monday, at an event sponsored by the Catoosa Republican Party, Black and Sisk each indirectly addressed questions about mailer sent out by the Sisk campaign which called into question several of Black's claims to his experience and questioned his departure from two of the jobs he has held in law enforcement.
In the end, neither candidate directly address those issues, with Black's supporters handing out a flyer afterwards in which the candidate addressed the charges one by one.
Two of those charges were:
— Sisk claimed that Black did not have 35 years of law enforcement experience. Black answered in the flyer that he had begun his career in 1976 as a dispatcher. Black said he has worked for several agencies in the north Georgia area. He said that, even while working a seven-days-off, seven-days-on schedule for Roadway in 1988, he continued to work part-time for the Ringgold Police Department on his days off.
— As for why Black did not list his position with Forsyth County, Black answered that the job was only a temporary position: “Working at the Olympic Games in 1996, I had the pleasure of meeting the sheriff-elect of Forsyth County. He offered me a major's position to help with his transition team. I was there for approximately three months and was happy to move back to the place I have always called home: Catoosa County.”
During the debate itself, both men were asked questions by moderator Mark West, founder of the Chattanooga Tea Party. The debate was sponsored by the Catoosa County Republican Party. This was the fourth debate to include the two men.
Black said the debates “have shown a big difference in (the candidates’) experience.”
Black has worked as a dispatcher, captain over the jail and for the past four years has served as commander of the Lookout Mountain Drug Task Force.
Sisk has 22 years of experience, all with the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office. He currently holds the position of chief deputy, second in command to retiring sheriff Phil Summers. His opening statement was, “I have a passion about keeping our community safe.”
Both men were positive of finding ways to save money within the sheriff's $8.5 million budget. Both men also went on record as saying they were not in favor of raising taxes to meet any new expenditures in the office.
Sisk said, “No, I don't see any area where we need to raise the budget. Also, as part of my platform, I think alternative sentencing could help reduce what we spend in jail operations.”
Black responded that he did not think alternative sentencing is the key, saying he was not on the rehabilitation board but on the crime-stoppers board. Sisk rebutted saying, “Unlike my opponent said, rehabilitation is where it is at.”
Unlike the confusion during past debates, both Sisk and Black were adamant that they fully supported the Second Amendment, which is the right by a citizen to bear arms. Both agreed that an armed civilian in the Aurora, Colorado, theater might have saved some of the lives lost.
Black's top priorities, if elected, are: more intense drug enforcement, a reduction in home invasions and burglaries by creating a special operations group, and to efficiently operate the jail and serve warrants.
Sisk's top priority would be getting a Community Oriented Policing (COP) program started to build community relationships, and secondly, in an effort to cut-down on repeat offenders, increase counseling efforts in the jail by bringing in faith-based groups to work with the inmates.
Sisk said, “I do feel it's the sheriff's job to help with rehabilitation.”
Saying that traffic and domestic violence are the top two call-outs for the department, Sisk offered that those and addiction-related crimes are the greatest crime challenges in the county.
Black said drug enforcement is the highest crime challenge facing county officers.
Both candidates believe that educating children and youngsters is the key to success in battling drug use by students.
As for retiring sheriff Phil Summers' endorsement, Sisk said, “I am proud and humbled to receive it and I appreciate it. He did this on his own accord. He feels like I am the most capable person to continue leading the department.
Black retorted that he was disappointed in it, saying, “One man's endorsement should not sway an election. I am looking for one endorsement only — the endorsement of the voter.”