Pike County Sheriff Kenny Cotton said he wants to continue the success and community service instilled in the department during his first term, saying he’s tough on crime but compassionate for the people he serves.
His challenger, James Brumfield, said his business and law enforcement background makes him better suited to run the office.
Cotton, 58, of McComb, won the position by a 2% margin four years ago to replace Mark Shepherd and faces what appears to be an equally tight race this year.
He’s a native of Pike County, having begun his law enforcement career with the McComb Police Department.
He has 36 years of law enforcement experience, having served as an agent with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and as Summit police chief before becoming sheriff. He also has served in the U.S. Army.
Cotton said he had two main goals when he took office — to aggressively investigate major crime and cold cases.
He said his investigators work hard every day to make that vision a reality and added that his department prosecuted suspected criminals at a high rate.
“I meant to put offenders behind bars,” Cotton said. “Not just write reports and allow them to stay out in the community.”
Cotton said he focused his efforts over the first term on promoting strong local ties between the department and the community, including businesses, churches and schools, and he’s proud of the results. He entered into an agreement with the South Pike school district to provide security at its sporting events. He said those efforts paid off and he’s excited to continue strengthening those relationships.
“Building positive relationships and trust with the community was one of my biggest goals and represents one of our biggest accomplishments,” Cotton said. “We’ve got to show people that we love them and we’re here to help.”
He has worked to build collaboration between the sheriff’s department and other local agencies, most notably the McComb Police Department. Cotton said information sharing and operational assistance between the two agencies has never been better and he intends to strengthen that relationship.
Cotton said he’s looking to grow the department over his next term in office in order to keep pace with the growing county. That means hiring more deputies to have five to six on patrol per shift, which could cost up to half a million dollars, and hiring up to three more investigators at a cost Cotton said could run a couple hundred thousand dollars.
“Our community needs this,” he said. “We need to be ready to deal with whatever might come our way.”
Cotton said he’s focused on keeping the community safe and supporting its citizens.
Said since he was elected, the county is safer and the sheriff’s department is working more closely with other departments.
“I want to thank the community for allowing me to serve them,” he said.
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James Brumfield, 66, of McComb, said his combination of law enforcement and business experience may be the perfect skillset required to be sheriff.
He spent 30 years at McComb Coca-Cola, retiring as vice president. At Coke, Brumfield said he managed a budget about twice as large as the roughly $4.5 million budget at the sheriff’s department.
He said he’s already taken a look at the sheriff’s budget and is eyeing several changes if he’s elected, but he wouldn’t elaborate.
“That’s nothing new to me,” he said.
He served Pike County as a sheriff’s deputy after graduating from the law enforcement school at Louisiana State University before venturing into private business. He said those experiences taught him a lot about the needs of Pike County and how to effectively manage a team of professionals committed to a common goal.
“It takes time to put an effective team in place but it’s very important,” Brumfield said. “It’s going to be a team effort.”
He said the first priority and mandate of his department is to provide public safety to citizen’s, their families and property.
“That’s what gives you quality of life, so you can raise your family and your children,” he said.
One thing Brumfield hammered home is his commitment to supporting local and regional law enforcement agencies. He said cooperation between those agencies is key to providing a good quality of life for county citizens.
“We’re going to work with other agencies hand-in-hand,” he said. “It’s got to be a team effort.”
Brumfield said collaboration and corporation between agencies can make a big difference when it comes to safeguarding the public.
“We’re going to reach out and we’re going to back them up,” he said. “We’re going to be proactive.”
He said he will do everything he can to support surrounding law enforcement agencies because he sees that as a proactive method of crime prevention. He said without cooperation, agencies are leaving much on the table.
“Crime doesn’t stop at the city or county line,” Brumfield said. “One of our main goals is to work together with other law enforcement agencies to make the whole county safer and provide a better quality of life.”
Brumfield said he’ll develop a team of highly qualified professionals.
“We can’t stop all crime,” he said. “But we will be proactive and work to prevent crime in the first place.”
One issue of frequent discussion lately has been the need for a juvenile detention facility in the county. While Brumfield recognizes that issue, he also understands the real-world constraints.
“We need it,” Brumfield said. “But it takes money.”
He said the people of the county will have to decide if they prefer to raise taxes to pay for such a facility.
Brumfield said he is determined to aggressively investigate crime and to provide for an effective patrol.
“They need to communicate with the people in the community,” he said of deputies, adding that community policing pays huge dividends because it provides intelligence for investigators.
“Communication is key for law enforcement,” he said. “You have to let the community know what’s going on with the sheriff’s department.”
More than anything, Brumfield said he will be there for Pike County.
“I will show up to work every day,” Brumfield said. “I care about what’s happening in our county.”