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Chism and Eberhart vying to become Callaway County sheriff

Chism and Eberhart vying to become Callaway County sheriff

October 30th, 2016 by Adam Brake in Local News

M.J. Eberhart (photo at left) is the Constitution Party candidate for Callaway County sheriff. Clay Chism (right) is the Republican candidate for the office on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Clay Chism, the Republican candidate for Callaway County sheriff on the Nov. 8 ballot, has opposition from the Constitution Party in the form of M.J. Eberhart.

M.J. EBERHART

M.J. Eberhart is the Constitution Party candidate for Callaway County sheriff.

Eberhart has a bachelor's degree in criminology from Florida State University. He has been married 22 years and has a 15-year-old daughter. He is a United States military veteran and has more than 25 years of combined law enforcement related experience, having worked with NASA at Kennedy Space Center, other sheriff's departments in Florida and two private sector companies. He was employed as a deputy sheriff in Callaway County from 2013-15 and is currently with the New Bloomfield Police Department.

Q. Why are you a better choice than your opponent?

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"I would avoid saying I'm a better choice. Clay is a very talented investigator. I would say my lifetime of experience at the local, state and federal level involves a lot more leadership and decision making. I've also run two private sector companies and dealt with budgeting and staffing issues. He spent his whole career in the public sector. I think we're both great candidates — I just have a lifetime of experience, and he's kind of halfway there."

A. What is the biggest problem facing Callaway County and how would you fix it?

"I think what can be done better is asset allocation. What I mean by that is the sheriff's office has a budget. The office is inside the city of Fulton. When you have investigators and deputies all at the office in Fulton, the response time is lagging because of that. There's other agencies that have partnered with fire departments. Instead of having four or five investigators there at the same time, if you stagger their hours and station them in different parts of the county, you can have quicker response times. If an investigator is at a desk, he doesn't need to sit at a desk in Fulton.

"The assets of the sworn positions can be used better and effectively. The sheriff's office is not responsible for the city of Fulton, so having your deputies within the city doesn't help anyone. I think it would be a wonderful model if looked at and implemented. Get these guys out in portions of the county the sheriff is responsible for. It's just a difference in scheduling and assignments.

"I'm a retired Florida deputy sheriff. Years ago, we had a sheriff in Florida who did this. He partnered with the different stations in the county, and they made this work. It's a win-win situation, and it doesn't cost anything. Deputies will become more available and become part of that area."

Q. How do you plan to recruit quality deputies and keep them?

A. "On the front end, the short answer is retention of the deputies we already have by improving morale and the promotional process. When you have an agency candidates want to work for, it sells itself. If they had a career path they saw was available, it would make it more enticing. I don't remember there ever being a promotional exam at the sheriff's office. How are you going to recruit a candidate that doesn't even have a defined promotional process or a scheduled pay raise? Corporal, sergeants and lieutenants should be competitive positions, and that doesn't happen here. For lack of better words, it's the good-old-boy system. This is 2016; you have to have a career path for individuals that are motivated."

Q. What is your philosophy on community policing and relations?

A. "Community policing is involvement not just in a response aspect, but partnering with community-oriented service agencies to make the office approachable. I work here; I live here. My family's here. When you add a personal face to the deputies, other than just showing up when somethings bad happening, it's a good move. I think being out and involved in the community is important, and not just during election years."

Q. How can you ensure the safety of your deputies while in the course of their duties?

A. "I think safety starts with equipment. Do they have up-to-date vests? Are they confident in their equipment? Do they have adequate training? Defensive tactics, first responder, first aid, and there's even classes called verbal judo where deputies learn to talk to people in different ways. I think what happens in law enforcement is perception gets skewed and somehow most people are bad guys, but there are predominately more good people in Callaway County. I think that would go back to training where you treat everyone fairly, impartially, respectfully and professionally."

Q. What makes Callaway County great?

A. "Callaway County is a beautiful and vibrant area filled with dynamic and wonderful people. There's so much potential here for industry and families. It's a very special part of the state of Missouri."

CLAY CHISM

Clay Chism is the Republican Party candidate for Callaway County sheriff.

Chism has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Central Missouri and a master's degree in criminal justice administration from Columbia College. A lifelong Callaway resident, Chism is married to Jennifer Chism, also a lifelong county resident, with one daughter. He has been employed with the sheriff's office for his entire, full-time, 16-year law enforcement career. Having served in numerous roles, Chism currently is a lieutenant and oversees the investigations division.

Q. Why are you a better choice than your opponent?

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A. "At no point in my campaign has my focus been on the other opponent. My campaign has been focused on myself and the agency. Therefore, I will choose to always speak of myself. I'm a lifelong Callaway County resident; I have devoted my entire 16-year law enforcement career to the citizens of this county through their sheriff's office. I have a master's degree in criminal justice administration, and I have virtually completed about every job within the sheriff's office over the past 16 years. I have a great understanding of the operations and the needs of the community. I further have a great working relationship with the commission, prosecuting attorney and other law enforcement agencies in the area."

Q. What is the biggest problem facing Callaway County, and how would you fix it?

A. "I see three primary issues facing the sheriff's office, the first being staffing and retention of qualified deputies. We are suffering from what is termed the post-Ferguson effect, and it's becoming more cumbersome to recruit hire and retain quality deputies. That leads to the second issue I see, that being an ever-increasing call load and simply not having an adequate amount of personnel to efficiently handle the increasing demands. With that said, already having a great working relationship with the commission, I plan to continue discussions with them as to staffing levels. The third primary issue I see facing the office is the jail. Over the next couple of years there's going to have to be serious maintenance issues handled within the jail that will be costly to the taxpayers of the county. The jail is nearing 30 years old and is many times at maximum capacity, and maintenance items in the last seven years can no longer be hid and must be fixed."

Q. How do you plan to recruit quality deputies and keep them?

A. "We are already in discussions with the county commission to increase the starting deputy salary in January 2017. We have also already begun a more extensive outreach program, whether it be through community events, job fairs or visits to law enforcement academies. Doing so will help us identify, recruit and hire quality deputies."

Q. What is your philosophy on community policing and relations?

A. "I would say in general terms, a good law enforcement-community relationship is a must. Law enforcement officers cannot work effectively or efficiently in the county without having the community support. The information we need to solve crimes comes from the community. Contrary to what you see on television, most criminal cases are made off witness testimonies and not forensic evidence. Therefore, it is imperative that the law enforcement and community have good relationships so the community will be more apt to provide information law enforcement needs to solve crimes."

Q. How can you ensure the safety of your deputies while in the course of their duties?

A. "Officer safety is a huge issue nationwide. We provide deputies with continuing education, some of which includes courses regarding officer safety. With that said, it must be understood that due to our staffing levels, we cannot send the number of deputies to certain types of calls where the textbook says more deputies should be responding. That is a huge concern of mine. We continuously upgrade equipment and attempt to provide deputies with tools to enhance our officer safety, but again, no matter what class you send officers to or what tools you give them, they're always in harm's way."

Q. What makes Callaway County great?

A. "Callaway County is a very vibrant community. From a law-enforcement perspective, one thing that makes the county great is the level of community report we receive, whereas in other parts of the nation, you see law enforcement under fire when in the last year we have had more and more community members step up and show law enforcement support here locally. Again, I would generally say from my perspective as a law-enforcement officer, what makes the county great is the high level of community support that all law-enforcement officers are afforded."