Five men have thrown their names into the ring in hopes of claiming the Republican nomination for Pima County sheriff and ending Democrat Clarence Dupnik's 32-year reign.
With such a crowded field—there are more GOP candidates on the ballot this year than in the previous four elections combined—and only a few weeks remaining before the Aug. 28 primary, voters may find it difficult to differentiate between the various challengers, especially since each has cited a variation of "it's time for some new leadership" in campaign materials.
Rather than badmouth the other GOP candidates, most are instead employing an "I'm the only one who ..." strategy. But even that can get confusing when trying to decipher their résumés.
The Weekly recently spoke with each challenger in an effort to clarify the candidate pool. Here's a brief look at each of the GOP hopefuls, in no particular order (other than when they were interviewed):
The Administrator (Mark Napier)
Napier, 50, is in his second political race this year, having unsuccessfully run for a spot on the Oro Valley Town Council in the spring.
"Frankly, I didn't do a very good job of running," acknowledged Napier, a retired Tucson Police Department captain who also works for the University of Arizona's Parking and Transportation Services and is head of Boston University's online Master of Criminal Justice Program. "But during that process, some people noticed me and felt I'd be an excellent candidate for Pima County sheriff."
Napier considers his time with TPD's command staff the kind of experience that none of his fellow candidates have. He said knowing how things work near the top of a large law-enforcement agency is imperative for a sheriff. While other candidates have worked as patrolmen, he said their lack of experience with budgets and other management duties puts them far behind.
"These guys have never managed an employee; these guys have never managed a budget," Napier said. "To me, it's simply not credible to go from a line-level position ... in one fell swoop to the top. It makes it seem like the other levels (in between) are not important."
The Street Cop (Chester Manning)
Manning, 53, has been an officer for many small police departments in southeastern Arizona, including stops in Clifton, Kearny and Marana. Though he lacks upper-level management experience and has not worked for a large agency, Manning believes his time spent on the streets gives him the knowledge he needs to run the Pima County Sheriff's Department.
"I have 18 years' experience as a street officer, dealing with the problems that our everyday citizens dealt with," Manning said. "I think that puts me in touch with what the average citizen is going through. I'm not an administrator sitting in that air-conditioned office ... I'm at the accident scene, sweating, taking care of business. We have professional administrators in the Sheriff's Department; we don't need another. We need a law-enforcement person in that job."
Manning said he wishes the sheriff's job was nonpartisan, therefore negating the need for politicking. This is evident in his preferred method for rubbing elbows with voters—a series of "Shoot With the New Sheriff" events he's held at gun ranges.
"It's a different way to talk with people," Manning said. "Frankly, I like to shoot. You go to where you're comfortable. I don't like the politics. I would prefer to do the law-enforcement stuff. One of the things that I've found has worked in this campaign is ... give me the facts. Give me the truth, not a lot of crap I don't want to hear. There will be no guesses of where I stand on the issues."
The Trainer (Vinson Holck)
Holck, 60, retired from TPD in 1993 after 20 years on the job. He also spent 36 years in the Arizona Air National Guard, retiring in 2006.
As a police officer, Holck said, his specialty was in the area of training. He was an advanced training coordinator for TPD, and during his career, he helped implement training protocol and programs for local agencies and the statewide Arizona Law Enforcement Academy.
Though he didn't criticize the training offered to current PCSD deputies, corrections officers and court police outright, Holck said those in charge of implementing new training aren't following through.
"Administrators are getting sent out to get up-to-date training, but not bringing it back to the department," Holck said. "They should send trainers, who would then submit an after-action report. Then administration could look that over."
Holck also believes there's a disconnect between the Sheriff's Department and the community, which he correlates to how Dupnik and other command staff members stay out of the public eye, other than when a high-profile crime occurs.
"What's missing is the sheriff's engagement with the community," Holck said. "In order to have a working crime-prevention program, the entire community needs to be involved. My experience in the National Guard is management by walking around. (When) leaders see people, they operate a little bit different.
"I can't sit behind the desk. I'm going to be out and about in the community."
The Lawman (Walt Setzer)
The cowboy-hat-wearing member of the field, the 60-year-old Setzer brings six-plus years of service with the Border Patrol and 16 years as a U.S. marshal to the table. He's lived in Arizona for about seven years, but has no experience in local law enforcement.
Setzer said he wouldn't know exactly what to do to change the way the Sheriff's Department is run "until I get in there," but he did say the organization is too top-heavy and needs to be trimmed in order to provide more resources to the street cops.
"What I understand is, they've got an overabundance of captains and command staff," Setzer said. "It's led Pima County to have the highest crime rate in Arizona, and that's unacceptable for our citizens."
The key to turning things around, Setzer believes, is working from the bottom and moving up, not just in terms of personnel, but also in fighting crime. By that, he means taking a more-active role in fighting property crime, which he considers a gateway offense that leads to more-serious crime problems.
To do so would involve working more closely with other law-enforcement agencies, both local and federal, Setzer said.
"We have serious drug problems here, which I think is responsible for a lot of our property crimes," he said. "None of the agencies have the resources to tackle that problem on their own, so there needs to be some crossover."
The Insider (Terry Frederick)
Frederick, 47, is the only candidate who can boast of any time spent in the Pima County Sheriff's Department. He worked there for more than three years, quitting in late 2001. Since then, he's run a private-investigation firm. He's also a process server.
Frederick said he sees some of the same problems in the Sheriff's Department now that were evident back when he was in uniform.
"Even at that time, I knew there was a lack of leadership, and it's just grown," Frederick said. "The morale is so low."
Frederick said the situation has worsened, because Dupnik has been decreasing his role in running the department, instead leaving his bureau chiefs in charge. If elected, Frederick says he will make command staff work the streets to stay connected to the citizens they protect.
"When the line officers see there's a chief or a captain responding to a call, they're going to have a greater respect for us," Frederick said. "We're going to bring back the business of preventing crime from happening, not just responding to it. That's community policing in itself."
Frederick also wants to revitalize the sheriff's posse program and overhaul the department's border unit.
"I have the insight; I know the intricacies," Frederick said. "I know what plagues the department."