Dennis Spruell has had his chance;
now it is Steve Nowlin’s turn

At this spring’s county assembly, Republican leaders chose Steve Nowlin as their sheriff candidate. Primary voters should do the same.

The current sheriff, Dennis Spruell, has racked up some accomplishments and some mistakes. That is the disadvantage every incumbent has: visible mistakes. Unfortunately for Spruell, those problems have added up.

The most recent, and perhaps the most poorly timed, was the sheriff’s office failure to provide a restitution total in time for former Undersheriff Robin Cronk’s sentencing last week. That is the public money the sheriff’s office still cannot, or will not, account for, at least not in open court.

The revelation that Cronk had used public funds for personal gain was indicative of personnel problems in the sheriff’s office. During Spruell’s term, a deputy was fired after problems with reports led to the discovery that his record prior to joining the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office was hardly stellar.

Another deputy left the force after he posted on his personal Facebook page the opinion that homosexuals should be rounded up and nuked, raising questions about his ability to treat those individuals fairly in the course of his duties.

Three detention center inmates died over the course of just a few months last year. His department’s relationship with the district attorney soured.

Early in his tenure, Spruell appeared on a white-supremacy radio show, but later regretted his participation. He had not known the show’s ideology, he said, although a county sheriff has even better resources than the average citizen to research such information.

Other public appearances centered on conservative issues that appealed to his base but pulled his attention from the more prosaic everyday practice of law enforcement.

Spruell has had the opportunity show what he could do, and what he has demonstrated is a consistent pattern of not being the sheriff Montezuma County needs. The strong support shown in his first campaign has fallen away. It is time for a change.

Steve Nowlin would be a different kind of sheriff. He is experienced, focused and he has little desire to be a politician. He thinks before he speaks, and what he says makes good sense. He has not been in the spotlight in recent years, but he has been quietly and steadily building his credentials and contributing to the community.

His professionalism and the relationships he already has with other agencies can only help the sheriff’s office, and he also will create effective working structures within the department. He will not spend his time exhorting his staff to make him look good; he knows the responsibility of the sheriff is to the public, not to his own reputation.

The fear that Nowlin will not support constituents’ constitutional rights is campaign nonsense. He has spent years teaching hunter safety courses; he is not going to be party to a wholesale plot to confiscate guns. He is a sensible person and a long-time resident; he understands the culture and the concerns.

At the same time, Montezuma County is electing a chief law-enforcement officer, not a lobbyist, and Nowlin has a clear view of what it takes to run the sheriff’s office and to serve and protect all the people of the county.

The next sheriff will be chosen in this month’s Republican primary. Let’s thank Dennis Spruell for his service and move on. Vote for Steve Nowlin.