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Smith says January accident hurt primary campaign, leading to write-in run decision

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Sheriff's race

By Dave Taylor

Incumbent Sheriff Ben Smith says his decision to run for re-election as a write-in candidate stems from his inability to effectively campaign prior to the May primary. Smith was injured in a traffic accident on Jan. 12 while responding to a domestic violence call. The sheriff spent nearly a month in a Louisville hospital and several weeks recuperating at home.

“I couldn’t campaign,” he said in an interview Monday. “I couldn’t make the effort. I just wasn’t well and the campaign was almost over by the time I got back.”

After Smith’s defeat in the primary, supporters began urging him to register as a write-in candidate for the fall general election.

“This time I’m out hammering on doors every afternoon, putting in all the time I can put in,” he said. “I show them how the ballot works. I’ve had a really good response.”

Smith’s law enforcement experience consists of the four years he has served as sheriff. He said his training has been enhanced each year through seminars held at the Kentucky Sheriff’s Convention.

“I’ve taken extensive training every year on how to run the office and how to approach paper work,” he said. “Each year they try to offer a little different format. It’s all about the basics of running the sheriff’s office, the business aspect of it, what our options are on how we can make money and how we can expand on that.”

The contacts made with trainers during these seminars provides good resource information for future reference, he said.

“When a problem comes up in this office, I have a resource person that I can call,” he said. “Each year at the convention, we gain new resources because they’ll have different presenters.”

Smith said the position of county sheriff is more an administrative role than that of patrolling. In larger counties with more personnel, he said, “sheriffs are not very active doing road deputy duties. This office is such a small office—there’s myself and three officers—which doesn’t allow for a true 24/7 man-on shift. That’s the reason I do so much call out myself.”

Smith feels the income generated by the department would “more than support” another deputy if he could get the approval from county government. The addition of two additional deputies would make a “true, working 24-hour, seven day a week, man-on system,” he said.

“Our budget is approved by county government—by fiscal court—a line item at a time,” Smith said. “They kind of set the salaries for all the deputies and for the office personnel and they tell us what we can spend. This office operates just like any other business and I have run it like a business.”

With the limited number of personnel due to budget constraints, Smith said his department depends on cooperation with other law enforcement agencies. He acknowledged that there are tensions between his department and the Carrollton City Police Department.

“I see a good deal of room for improvement with the city police,” he said. “There are some officers on the city police force that I get along with very well. I’ve never been invited to participate in Shop with a Cop since I’ve been elected sheriff. So I started our own program here, Christmas with the Sheriff.”

Smith said he depends on help from the Kentucky State Police to combat drug problems within the county. He has partnered with the state police by providing them with what he called “volumes” of information.

“This office cannot do a drug program,” he said, “and the reason we can’t do it is we don’t have the money and we don’t have the manpower. To do drugs you’ve got to buy drugs and you’ve got to have somebody who is capable to go into those circles and buy. The state police have money to buy dope. They have paid informants. They have manpower to go to court.”

Smith acknowledges that not many write-in candidates have been successful in past elections. Few people in Carroll County have made the attempt to win a general election in the past, he said.

“There haven’t been a lot of write-in elections historically,” Smith said. “The hardest thing will be to get people to come out and vote and get them to understand how simple the write-in process is. The write-in process is very straightforward.”