As longtime Taney County Sheriff Jimmie Russell is retiring this year, county residents will have the responsibility of electing an all new sheriff on Tuesday, Aug. 4.
Voters will have the opportunity to cast their ballots for one of three candidates: Keith Edwards, Shane Keys or Brad Daniels.
Each of the candidates participated in a phone interview with the Branson Tri-Lakes News. Candidates answers are presented in the order they appear on the ballot and have been edited for space.
Edwards was born and raised in Taney County. He graduated from Bradleyville High School. Edwards served in the military for four years. He and his wife Beth have three daughters and a son. Edwards has been in law enforcement for the past 26 years, with 25 of those years being with the Taney County Sheriff’s Office. He currently serves as a sergeant shift supervisor and has been in that role for 19 years. Edwards has supervised both day and night shifts, but for the last 11 years he’s served on night shift.
Keys is a lifelong resident of Taney County. He has children who attend School of the Ozarks. He graduated from Forsyth High School and studied Criminal Justice at College of the Ozarks. Keys graduated from Drury Law Enforcement Academy and has been with the Taney County Sheriff’s Office for 17 years. He’s served as a 911 communications officer, a deputy sheriff and spent three years as an undercover officer with the COMET Drug Task Force. Keys a SWAT Team Member for five years and has been a detective for the past 12 years. He also holds certifications in crime scene investigation, methamphetamine labs and hazardous material.
Daniels was born and raised in Taney County. He attended Hollister High School. He and his wife Renee have been married for 18 years and have two boys. Daniels volunteers as a youth sports coach for the Hollister School District. He has been with the Taney County Sheriff’s Office for 20 years. Daniels spent his first five years with the department working patrol. The following 12 years, he worked in the civil process division, with five of those years serving as the division sergeant. For the last two and a half years Daniels has served as the chief sheriff’s deputy.
Why are you running for Taney County Sheriff?
Edwards: “The reason I’m running for Taney County Sheriff is because it’s my home. I was born and raised here. My kids are raised here. I plan on having grandkids here. I’ve put 25 years into the sheriff’s department, and I feel like I have the experience as a supervisor and the drug problem that continues to arise, which in Taney County is just astronomical. Especially over the past eight years and about the past three years with the heroin and the overdoes we’ve got. I’ve got a different perspective on how to handle it, and I’m wanting to do something about it, because this is where my family is. I will not be doing this much longer since I am 55 years old, and I would like to think that when I step down from this, I made a difference here in my home area.”
Keys: “I am running for sheriff to take a proactive stance to eradicate illegal drugs from our communities and provide professional investigations of all crimes, so criminals are held accountable for their actions in a court of law. During my 17-year law enforcement career, I witnessed first hand the increasing devastation our communities have faced from overdoses, violent crimes, burglaries, theft and other crimes as a direct result of the illegal drug culture. I’ve a proven track record of 100s of successful drug investigations, eradicating illegal drugs and weapons off the streets, and getting crucial results for our communities for the last 15 years during my time assigned in an investigative capacity. I’m a certified crime investigator with an extensive investigative background in narcotics, homicide, violent crimes and death investigation. I believe through my training, extensive experience and community-oriented initiatives I will restore and champion a healthy and thriving vision for both the employees of the sheriff’s office and our communities.”
Daniels: “I feel the position of sheriff is a very important position. It can have a lot of effect on the direction that the county goes. I have a lot of changes that I would like to make in order to better serve the citizens of the county. One of those changes is that we need more proactive patrols. We don’t have a lot of proactive patrols. We haven’t for several years. I think we need to be more proactive. We need to focus on the drug issues that the county faces. Those are just a couple of the ideas that I want to implement. There are lots of changes I feel I could make, and I feel like I’m the best choice.”
Is there a certain issue you would like to address if elected?
Edwards: “What I am going to do is address the drug problem. The drugs in Taney County probably generate, I don’t have the exact statistics, but I’m going to say it generates probably 75% of the other crimes that happen. Your burglaries, your stealings, your assaults. So that’s going to be my main focus. I’m wanting to start a drug task force and add two more investigators just to take care of that alone. What we’ve got right now is one investigator that is supposed to be assigned to that, and he just can’t keep up. What I also plan on doing is a little different. I’m wanting to work with Stone, Christian, Douglas, Ozark, Marion and Boone counties, because everybody that surrounds us, I guarantee you, the trafficking and the same people are running back and forth. So I’d like to work a better rapport with this drug task force so where they’re going to meet with them at least once every two weeks. Just keep updated and all of us work together, and that’s what my deal is. United, we can make a difference, and I truly believe that. Any crime that’s solved is not solved by one department, and you’ve got other departments and other agencies. You’ve got investigators, deputies, your prosecutor and your forensic labs; and it’s the same way with working this. We need to work together to take care of this. I guarantee all these other counties have got a big problem, too, so let’s work it together.”
Keys: “The illegal drugs and crime that plague our community. Drug dealers and repeat offenders no longer fear or respect the law in Taney County. We have to have change. I’m not here to play paddy cakes with criminals. I’m here to take a proactive stance against crime and hold criminals accountable for their actions. I believe the lack of accountability leads to compromise, and we have to get away from minimum standards and status quos to be effective and proactive as a sheriff’s office in our community. I believe that 80% of the crime that occurs in Taney County can be directly connected to illegal drugs. The devastation in our communities caused by illegal drugs has continued to be a lack of priority for far too long leaving our communities and citizens vulnerable.. The law enforcement tax that was passed by the voters is a huge blessing, however it will take some time for these revenues from that tax to be able to put back into the community. The first revenues will not be received until late 2020, and the amount of the revenues will be contingent on several things such as the effects COVID-19 will have on our businesses who collect the tax. So until we receive steady and consistent revenue from the tax, we will have to do more with less. Police presence in an area can serve as the No. 1 crime deterrent, which is why it is so important to have deputies out of the office and conducting proactive patrols covering all geographic areas of the county to regain the safety and trust of our citizens.”
Daniels: “That would be the drug problem. Anybody that’s spent anytime in Taney County knows that it’s a very serious problem here. I’ve been the team leader of the SWAT team for the last seven years, and during that time we’ve served more search warrants for officers of other agencies within the county than we have our own investigators. They’re serving search warrants outside of their jurisdiction, so we serve those for them. But I think that we need to be doing that work. We need to assign a couple of investigators that work only the drugs, and we need to team them up with officers from other agencies. Branson PD has done very well. They have a program that’s worked very well taking a lot of drugs off of the streets. I think we could team up with them and work together with them in cooperation and actually have an impact. I think if we have an impact on the drug problem, it will, in turn, have an impact on the assaults, thefts and burglaries and the other crimes that stem from the drug issue.”
Is there anything else about yourself or your campaign that you would like voters to know?
Edwards: “It’s been odd doing this campaign with the COVID-19 and it’s sad in itself. A lot of people have been healed from it, but you can’t get out and meet people like you want to. I did do this four years ago, and I had a plan then, and I’m even more passionate about it now, because the drugs have just continued to increase. I did a lot of door-to-door last time, meeting people and actually allowing them to get to know me. So the campaign has been a lot harder. So you’re going to have to use the media, because the forums aren’t happening.
“I’m not just a veteran. I’ve got conservative Christian values, and I do stand by and defend the Second Amendment. That means an awful lot to me.
“I have worked with budget. After 9/11 the hazmat team was developed and it was with Western Taney County Fire and Joplin and Springfield PD and Branson PD and ourselves. I overseen that, along with the Branson SWAT team leader, because I was with the SWAT team for 12 years. At the time, I was working with the budget and the expenditures on that and also the training of the team to deal with chemical and biological weapons.”
Keys: “During my time as an undercover officer and as a detective, I’ve learned what it truly means to be a public servant to this community. I put the needs of our community first by working nights, weekends and hours that others don’t want to work, by spending holiday’s away from my family and missing special family events to attend autopsies and other work related activities. My serving of an on-call status for the past 15 years, responding in the middle of the night to process horrific crime scenes and comforting family members while delivering death notifications to those who have lost loved ones and by spending days off testifying in court so criminals are held accountable in a court of law and being a pillar of support for victims. These experiences have helped me understand the needs we are facing as a community and the opportunity law enforcement has to serve in these capacities. Also, as with any new position or title, there will be a learning process. I would like the voters to know I will seek the guidance of the commission, county attorney, treasurer and auditor to make informed decisions to properly handle each individual issue that best and legally accommodates both the citizens and the employees I’ll represent. I’ve obtained additional training and experience and leadership development. If elected, I will be a committed public servant and sheriff our community can be proud of.”
Daniels: “I do feel that I am the most qualified. My opponents, one of them has spent most of his career in investigations; the other one has spent most of his career in patrol. I on the other hand, I’ve served on patrol. I’ve served on civil process. That, in particular, carries a great deal of liability for the county. I’m the only one that’s served in that division and has knowledge of that. Like I said, I’m currently the chief deputy, which involves me in the budget, payroll and scheduling and discipline and other administrative functions of the sheriff’s department. I’m the only one that has that experience, and for that reason, I feel like I’m the best candidate for the job.”