George Kenworthy, sheriff’s candidate

1. What uniquely qualifies you to serve as sheriff of Robeson County?

I believe that the office of sheriff is an administrative position. The environment and climate that a sheriff must work in requires organizational structure and administrative experience as well as experience in criminal justice.

My background and experience as an administrator will allow me to bring to the office of sheriff approximately 17.5 years of experience as an administrator that includes: Budget planning and execution; personnel management; policy and development maintenance and repair of facilities; vehicle fleet management; fixed asset management and accountability; weapons management and accountability; ammunition management; staff training management; assisted in development of county-wide policy that prevented the loss of $200,000 in grant funding.

Historically, the Robeson County sheriff leadership has not come from an administrative background. I believe that because of my administrative background and my 37 years experience in the criminal justice system are unique in that respect and what I will bring to the office of sheriff.

2. Robeson County routinely ranks at the top of crime, both violent and property, in North Carolina. What would you do on the front end in order to try to prevent crime from occurring? (Please be specific)

The county is broken up into patrol zones for the Sheriff’s Office to provide service to the citizens. I will assess each of the patrol zones and analyze criminal data; identify high crime areas, develop a strategy to prevent crime,; build strong collaborative relationships with community watch programs; develop a pamphlet to inform citizens on strategies to enhance their safety and security of their personal property; establish a countywide arrest database; share criminal data and collaborate with all law enforcement agencies in the county; expand community watch programs in all communities; work with our school board to make security assessments of our schools to take a proactive approach for safer schools; and address the drug problem working to enhance existing intervention programs and establishing diversion programs.

3. What is your perception of the quality of resources that are available to the Sheriff’s Office, in terms of patrol cars, weaponry, the things that are needed to equip deputies? If there is a problem, what would you do to secure funding to remedy it?

I do not have enough information to make a thorough assessment of the quality of the resources of the Sheriff’s Office, but I will assess the current resources; provide resource shortfalls to the Board of Commissioners; research potential grant funding, utilize state and military surplus, use state forfeiture funds and existing budget funds to address short falls; andevelop a strategic plan to proactively prevent budget shortfalls.

4. One of the hangovers from Operation Tarnished Badge has been that the county is no longer eligible to share in assets that are claimed through drug arrests, especially off Interstate 95. This money can be used to equip the Sheriff’s Office. What would you do to try to recapture that ability?

Contact the U.S. Justice Department to find out what Robeson County must do to be allowed back into the forfeiture program. Seek recommendations from state forfeiture partners to support re-entry into the federal forfeiture program. * Comply with all recommendations of federal partners.

5. Would you have a full-time position for a public relations person, someone who would primarily deal with the media as well as the public when there are concerns? Why or why not?

Yes, a Public Information Officer is absolutely necessary and important to the mission of the Sheriff’s Office. Why? It enhances the agency’s ability to provide accurate and timely information to the community at large; enhances transparency; and strengthens and builds positive relationships with the community at large.

The sharing of public information is absolutely necessary in our society today. Social media platforms are the most utilized means of communication in our society and our county is no different. It is a fast and timely way to share information with our citizens and our media. This is why this position is so critical to our mission. It will ensure accurate and effective communication with our citizens and our media outlets, which in emergency situations could save lives.

6. What do you see as the No. 1 failing of the previous sheriff? (Assuming you believe there is one) What would you do better in that regard?

I thank the sitting sheriff for his 40-plus years of service to our county. I feel a great hallmark of any leader when they take the helm of an organization is not to criticize, but to go in and assess the operation. It is difficult to fix anything unless you know what needs fixing; and the best way to know what needs fixing is to look for yourself.

If elected sheriff, I will do exactly that. I will assess the Sheriff’s Office’s operation. What I find that is working, I will work to make it better. What I find that is not working, I will work to fix it and make it work.

I will audit the agency in every area and put together an audit report.

I will provide a copy of the audit report to the county manager and the commissioners to make them aware of the current state of the Sheriff’s Office and any needs that I may have in order to carry out our mission. I would then move forward to implement the findings of my audit to correct and improve the operation.

7. Robeson County is the most diverse county in the state of North Carolina. If elected, what specifically will your office do to ensure that all citizens are treated equally and without bias toward race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, age, genetic information, military service, or disability?

If elected sheriff, it is very important that I share my expectations to all my staff. In public service every person is somebody and every person deserves equal treatment without respect of person; I will be a sheriff to all the people.

I will work diligently to have and maintain a staffing pattern that reflects the diversity of our county. I think that is paramount to the mission of our agency that it reflects the diversity of the citizens we serve. It shows that all citizens matter to our agency. When all citizens know they matter, it strengthens the relationship between the agency and the citizens.

Through the years of working in management positions, I have learned that when my staff know their work is important to me, it is important to them. I need to ensure that hiring practices are diverse, that arrests, investigations, and other services provided to our citizens are being carried out without respect of person.

I will inspect what I expect.

8. What are the greatest challenges that you foresee facing the office of the sheriff of Robeson County in the foreseeable future? How do you plan to meet those challenges?

Staff recruitment and retention is a major challenge for law enforcement officers and detention officers across the nation. The environment in which we work is evolving every day. I will work with our community college and our sheriff’s associations to provide our staff with the training, seek out additional training resources that can be obtained via the internet, in incorporate evolving technology to increase agency efficiency and productivity; enhance and strengthen staff training and development programs; contact community colleges, recruit from various BLET programs, hold job fairs, run advertisements in local newspapers and post job vacancies on agency webpage.

I will employ sound fiscal management practices through effective management and oversight of all contracts and expenditures; utilize state/federal surplus and potential grant funding to defer cost; diligently work to regain participation in federal forfeiture program; ensure staff interaction and exposure to public social media;and ensure that staff receives proper training and awareness of the potential impact of social media on law enforcement and how to properly respond to public social media encounters.

9. How do you believe your approach to running the office of sheriff, if you were elected, would differ from that of your opponents?

I have 37 years of experience working in the North Carolina Criminal Justice System (Department of Corrections) with 10 years as a prison administrator.

I am the only candidate with the breadth and depth of organization and management experience to lead, guide, and provide resources to accomplish the mission of the Sheriff’s Office and serve our citizens.

I managed the Lumberton Correctional Institution in Lumberton, N.C. This facility had a staff of approximately 278 employees and 700 inmates.

I also managed Tabor Correction Institution located in Columbus County, Tabor City, N.C. It had a staff of approximately 480 employees with 1,500 inmates and for approximately 3.5 years was the largest prison in the state.

I was the first facility administrator of Tabor Correctional Institution. I managed this project from the foundation to completion, including staffing and equipping the facility.

I have managed the Robeson County Detention Center for approximately 7.5 years with a staffing of 92 employees and a capacity of 400 inmates.

In addition to my experience in the N.C. Criminal Justice System, I have 17.5 years of management experience.

As administrator I have experience in human resource, budget and fixed asset management.

Ask yourself a question and then answer it.

Kenworthy did not do so.