Candidates seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for state and national offices were given a few minutes to speak at the Dickinson County Republican Party’s picnic held Saturday at Old Abilene Town.
Two are seeking the Republican nomination for Dickinson County Sheriff, incumbent Gareth Hoffman and former investigator Jerry Davis. There is no candidate seeking that position in the Democratic primary.
Jerry Davis said he was born and raised in Abilene and was a graduate of Abilene High School.
He said his dad, Jerry Davis, ran Sirloin Stockade and his mother, Marie, worked at Boogaarts.
“Everything I am, I owe to them,” he said. “They were honest, hard-working people and they taught me how to treat people with respect, how to be honest and how to work hard. I owe that to them.”
Davis started his law enforcement career in 1988 as a reserve deputy at the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office, he said. While working days at Great Plains Manufacturing, he worked with deputies in the evenings.
“If a jailer failed to show up in the jail, I worked the jail in corrections. I partnered with road deputies on the road and if there was security needed at civic functions, I provided that as a reserve,” he said.
He said he worked with County Administrator Brad Homann when Homann was a detective.
He said Sheriff Carl McDonald offered him the full-time position in the drug enforcement devision.
“I took it right on the spot,” he said.
After attending the police academy, he went to work on road patrol where he stayed until 1994, he said.
“The sheriff at the time, Curt Bennett, promoted me to criminal investigations as a second investigator behind investigator (John) Nachtman,” Davis said.
A year later he said he was promoted to primary investigator in 1995 which he held for about the next 25 years.
“As a criminal investigator I was involved in pretty complex investigations involving homicides, rapes, sexual assaults, so I have the experience to do the job. I have the knowledge to do the job and I want to provide that knowledge to the new young deputies so they can help protect the citizens of Dickinson County like I have in my career,” he said.
As an investigator he also helped start and operate the Dickinson County Crimestoppers program by adding a phone application so students could report concerns 24 hours a day.
“I manned that 24 hours a day from my cell phone,” he said.
He said he was promoted to sergeant, lieutenant and captain until April of this year.
“I decided I wanted to run for sheriff in February of this year and was getting signatures on my petition. On April 7 of this year I was fired from the sheriff’s office by Undersheriff James Swisher,” Davis said.
He said a letter was provided explaining the firing.
“It’s clear that I wanted to run for sheriff in February of this year and I was fired two months later. I was fired because I chose to run for sheriff against Gareth Hoffman,” he said. “Let there be no doubt about that.”
He said he saw the need to run because, over the years, the office had started to “crumble down around me and I couldn’t stop it.”
He said there was a $25,000 theft from the evidence room. The officer that committed that theft confessed to it immediately.
“The sheriff put him on paid administrative leave. The sheriff took no action to investigate the matter simply because he was a friend and he wanted him to get his retirement,” Davis said. “The KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigation) investigated the sheriff for covering up that theft and the sheriff refused to cooperate in that investigation. It is in my opinion that as a law enforcement officer you have a duty to cooperate with every other law enforcement agency on any investigation. If you don’t, not only should you lose your job, you should lose your law enforcement certification as well.”
He said he can provide the leadership to the new young officers.
“I am hard-working. I am often the first person to arrive in the morning and the last person to leave,” he said. “Law enforcement is my passion and I want to continue to do it.”
Gareth Hoffman said he has no knowledge that he has personally been investigated.
“When you are the sheriff and something bad happens in the department, you do own some of that., absolutely,” he said. “They came and investigated the entire department. I think it is a little bit of a play on words to say I was investigated.”
He said he talked with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and agents said they did not have a case file on Gareth Hoffman.
Hoffman said he was born and raised in Chapman and has lived in Dickinson County his entire life.
He said he started with the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office in 1993. He worked in the jail for six months, moved to patrol for nine years. When John Nachtman left to join the KBI, then sheriff Curt Bennett made Hoffman undersheriff. When Bennett retired Hoffman ran for the position as county sheriff.
“I want to say that I get to serve as your sheriff. I am very honored by that,” Hoffman said. “It’s very humbling. I wouldn’t trade it for anything but there is more to it than just that.”
He said being sheriff is not his identity.
“That doesn’t mean I don’t care,” he said.
His identity he said is being a Christian, a father, husband, brother and a son.
“That is my priority. Make no mistake about it because when this ride is over, that is what I will be,” he said. “That is what I’ve always been and that is what I will always be. Do I still want to be your sheriff? Absolutely,” he said. “But I will pick my family first and I will apologize to no one.
“We can talk about the budget. We can talk about drug court. We can talk about community policing initiatives. We can talk about all the great things that we have done. We can talk about the mistakes we have made but I think we are missing a few things,” he added.
He said the manner in which adversity is handled defines character.
“It’s easy to be a good person when things are going your way. It becomes a little more tricky when they are not,” he said. “I would weigh 2020 has shown us a little bit of adversity with COVID and what is going on in law enforcement.
“I know who I am. God knows who I am. My family knows who I am. You can print any article you want. You can put any post on Facebook you want. It really doesn’t matter because I know — and you can say it 100 times - it doesn’t make it any more true than it does the first time you said it three years ago.”
Hoffman said that in looking at social media, signs and advertisements he sees common terms like integrity, honesty and passion.
“I found myself wondering, are we missing a couple things?” he said. “Particularly with the current environment of law enforcement and the communities, I have to wonder. Are we missing compassion? Are we missing humility? Are we missing humanity? Are we missing dignity? Maybe we are a little bit. What about vulnerability?”
Hoffman said he has made mistakes.
“If you are looking for perfect, you probably won’t find it, at least not here, not tonight,” he said. “Vulnerability is the most accurate measure of courage. Not my words.”
He said he would rather run a department with 20 good officers who are great people than 20 great officers who are not good people. He said law enforcement was about the people contained within it.
“And how we are teaching them. How they are coming up through this mess that we are facing,” he said. “In the end, and there will be an end, you need to understand that I am not the savior but I also choose not to be the curse.
“If you are looking for perfect, I can’t help you. If you are looking for somebody that is a good person and will always be a good person and understands vulnerability and dignity and humility, I can help you out there.”
Contact Tim Horan at email@example.com.