August 2 Election Will Focus on Sheriff’s Race

By REX ZIMMERMAN

Barber County voters go to the polls next Tuesday, August 2, for the Kansas Primary Election, which will select candidates for the General Election ballot in November.

And while most primary races in the county are uncontested, the race for Sheriff and County Commissioner from District 3 do have candidates for voters to choose from.

Sheriff candidates are Christina Ricke, James Stevenson, Lonnie Small and incumbent Justin Rugg. All four visited with the public in Kiowa at a forum held Tuesday, July 19, at the Community Building. A good crowd of interested citizens attended the forum, which was sponsored by the Kiowa Chamber of Commerce.

Candidates for Sheriff were the only candidates on the speaking schedule, but the crowd did get to hear from County Commissioner Bill Smith of Hardtner, who gave the crowd an overview of the many issues facing the county, including continued low valuations in the oil and gas industry, which has traditionally made up a big part of Barber County’s tax revenues.

He did praise, however, the completion of the new Courthouse Annex complex located just east of the present courthouse. He said it proved it worth right after opening when it served as command headquarters for the county, state and many, many other fire crews that fought the Anderson Creek Wildfire in March of this year.

Commissioner Smith got a few chuckles when he said he would keep his talk non-political and even introduced Charles Achenbach, who was sitting in the crowd and who is also running for the District 3 commissioner’s job.

The Sheriff candidates then took the podium.

Christina Ricke grew up on a farm near Sharon and presently lives in Medicine Lodge with her son, Grant, and works for the City of Medicine Lodge.

She feels her experience in working with city codes and regulations, time management, and especially her experience working with every day citizens makes her a good candidate for an office dedicated to serving the public.

Although she doesn’t have a law enforcement background, Ms. Ricke said she is confident that she will have no problem learning and implementing regulations pertaining to law enforcement and wants “to make certain that everybody in Barber County is treated equally and honestly under the law.”

James Stevenson, who resides on a farmstead near Hazelton with his wife, Joann. A native of Derby, KS, Mr. Stevenson first worked and retired from the Wichita Police Department, then went to work for the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, retiring as a senior crime scene investigator.

Mr. Stevenson said the biggest problem with the current Sheriff’s Office is that they haven’t been trained to investigate crime scenes properly, and he feels his extensive experience in that area would be a big asset to the job.

Justin Rugg, the current Sheriff, is a lifelong resident of the Hazelton area and resides there with his wife, Dooli, who worked at Kiowa District Hospital, and their two children, Emily and Logan.

Sheriff Rugg is finishing his first term in the office and has spent all of his 12 years of law enforcement with the Sheriff’s Department.

Mr. Rugg noted that during his past four years in office, arrests have gone up from 398 to 488 and traffic stops are up from 1,452 to 3,299, which, he said, means they are “getting more bad guys off the streets”.

He has initiated other improvements in the department, such as body cameras for deputies. He said his department is always ready to serve the public honestly and fairly and said he can stand on his record as Sheriff the past four years.

Lonnie Small is a Medicine Lodge resident and was formerly Undersheriff for Barber County. He presently works for Barber County Public Works. His wife, Colleen, has worked 18 years for the Kansas Dept. of Transportation.

They have two grown children- Brittany, husband Jordan and son Parker of Dodge City, and son Josh and wife Chelsea and their children Caeden and Madisyn of Medicine Lodge.

Mr. Small, who also worked several years for the Medicine Lodge Police Dept., said he wants to bring back “honesty, integrity and a common sense approach” to the Sheriff’s Office. He said he feels the rural areas of the county have been underserved and vows to increase patrols in those areas if elected. He also said he will work with county commissioners to be a good steward of tax dollars and will always be open to the public he hopes to serve as Sheriff.

ALSO ON the August 2 ballot are two county commission races. In District 3, which covers much of the west part of Barber County including Hardtner, incumbent Bill Smith is facing a challenge from Charles Achenbach. Both candidates are from Hardtner.

In District 2, Paul Harbaugh of Kiowa is running unopposed.

Incumbents for County Clerk, County Treasurer, Register of Deeds and County Attorney are all running unopposed.

Elections will also be held for state and federal representatives and senators and township offices.

Voters in the Kiowa-Hardtner-Hazelton area will cast ballots from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Kiowa Community Building. Residents in the Medicine Lodge area will vote at the new Courthouse Annex.

Election results will be posted Tuesday night on our website “www.kiowanews.com” as soon as received from the County Election Office.