Cass County Candidate Forum, September 25, 2012 – Part II

Today will be a continuation of yesterday’s review of the Cass County Candidate Forum. If you remember from my earlier post, with a few exceptions, I was not impressed with the candidates from either party. I reviewed the Commission candidates yesterday. Today I’ll review two others, the candidates for Public Administrator and Sheriff.

The candidates for Public Administrator are Melody Folsom (R) and Michelle Cornforth (D). Melody Folsom is the incumbent. Michelle Cornforth, from her bio presented during the forum is a recent arrival to the county. Her previous experience is as a social worker in Nevada, MO. From her resume, she appears to have sufficient experience for the office of Public Administrator. Melody Folsom has a public track record, Michelle Cornforth does not.

When they answered questions during the forum it was apparent the two had radically different approaches to the job. Melody Folsom viewed her position as a personal ministry to those she served. Michelle Cornforth made similar responses to every question—make sure the paperwork was done, t’s crossed, i’s dotted.

Folsom’s answers reflected her concern for her charges. She was, in essence, in a parental position and she viewed her job as that, to insure each individual received the care and services necessary to meet their needs.

I did not perceive any such approach from Cornforth. While it is important that the necessary paperwork be completed on time and properly, the position of Public Administrator is not bureaucrat hammering square pegs into round holes. I did not see any empathy to the public charges by Cornforth. Her presentation to the public at the forum was cold and aloof. My notes about her was, “Bureaucrat wannabe.”  I have no doubt Michelle Cornforth could insure all the paperwork was completed. It’s the CYA of the bureaucrat. But she would not view her charges as people as does Folsom. For Cornforth, they would be a file-folder with a name.

The other race I’m reviewing is that of Cass County Sheriff. Dwight Diehl (R) is the incumbent with 16 years experience as Sheriff and more years before that in law enforcement. He has memberships in numerous law enforcement organizations including associations at the state and federal level and has experience in the field as a police officer before being Sheriff. He has been innovative with citizen’s academies and has a long-standing personal relationship with the public.

The other candidate for Sheriff is Doug Catron (D). Catron, like Diehl, has years of experience in law enforcement. The most recent as an investigator for the Cass County District Attorney. He, like Diehl before him, attended the Sheriff’s Academy and served as a police officer during his career.

Apart from the similarities noted above, the two candidates have different approaches. Diehl, from his remarks, views the job of Sheriff as a Peace Officer. Catron, from his answers, views the job as political. When Diehl was asked questions concerning crime, he responded as a law enforcement officer. Catron responded as a politician.

For example, one of the first questions was, “What would you do when criminals from the metro area (Jackson County and Kansas City) come to Cass County and commit crimes?”

Catron responded as he did with most of the questions by declaring he would establish alliances with other law enforcement organizations and utilize intelligence from them. Diehl, on the other hand had a short, pithy answer. “I’d put them in jail.”

That, in a nutshell, is the difference between the two candidates. When asked what his priority as Sheriff would be, Catron said fighting drugs, prescription drugs and meth labs—all political hot buttons. Diehl responded that the number of local/state meth labs has been steadily dropping. There has been no drug-related murders in the county this year and few in previous years. He said the current emphasis was the inflow of Mexican drugs.

I was surprised that Catron was not aware of the changing environment of illegal drugs. His ignorance implied he was out-of-touch with current law enforcement trends and issues.

Of the two, I prefer Diehl for Sheriff. He is the chief law enforcement officer in the county and he views the job of Sheriff as such. Catron, on the other hand, is just another politician on the way to another political office. I like having a real law enforcement officer as Sheriff rather than a politician.

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