Sheriff candidates square off in forum

By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

Roosevelt County sheriff candidates Tom Gossett and Darren Hooker addressed communication with the commissioners and dealing with staff shortages and meth problems in Roosevelt County during a candidate forum Thursday evening.

Roosevelt County and the chamber of commerce sponsored the public forum. Gossett and Hooker are both Republicans meaning the winner of the June 6 primary will be unopposed in November.

Gossett answered a question about working relationships with other county, city and state agencies.

“I have an excellent rapport with the Portales Police Department, we formed a task force,” Gossett said. “I have a good rapport with the New Mexico State Police. With the county commissioners, I have done my best. Perhaps I didn’t do it appropriately, but I feel my people needed certain things.”

Gossett said he has continuously asked for pay increases, a 20-year retirement plan and bonus benefits for the deputies. Gossett said he was told there was not any money in the budget for these types of incentives.

“If I became abrasive, I would send Capt. (Rick) Short because he had a better rapport with them,” Gossett said.
Hooker also discussed the relationship between county, city and state agencies.

“We all want to solve crimes and we need to have the best working relationship we can (with other agencies) to do that,” Hooker said.

Hooker said he feels it should be the sheriff who comes before the county commission when it comes to asking for benefits and pay raises.

Public forums and education are two things Hooker said he wants to emphasize if elected.

“I want to establish a public forum once a month for the community,” Hooker said. “The sheriff can talk to the members of the community and be able to visit with them.”
Hooker and Gossett said a continuing problem in the county is meth use.

“Meth use continues to be a problem,” Hooker said. “It leads to robbery, burglary and other crimes. We need to address those things. We need to educate the young people and eradicate the people who are using them (drugs).”
Gossett said during his term county deputies have tried to address the meth drug problem.

“Drugs are a problem in the county,” Gossett said. “But we get a lot of calls about speeding up and down the roads. I am a lawman, this county needs adequate protection.”
Gossett went on to say there is also a problem with sex offenders and domestic violence in the county. A Web site and keeping track of sex offenders are two ways Gossett uses to deter sex crimes.

Hooker said patrolling the county and catching speeding violators are equally important.