The editorial board of this newspaper does not often make endorsements. We do not endorse national, state or even local candidates with any regularity. However, given the importance of the Nodaway County Sheriff’s race and this paper’s extensive coverage of that race, with features of both candidates and fact-checking of the claims made by both, we felt it important to weigh in.

The editorial board of the Northwest Missourian has decided to endorse Randy Strong (R) for sheriff.

We believe Strong is the best of the two candidates for the position of chief law enforcement officer of the county for many reasons. Strong has decades of experience in law enforcement; some of that experience even led to him being recognized in the White House. 

Strong has interacted with students and spoken at Northwest on multiple occasions, including the annual Karen Hawkins Week hosted by Sigma Sigma Sigma, a week focused on keeping the memory of Hawkins, a Northwest student who was sexually assaulted and murdered in 1995. Strong was one of the officers who investigated that case.

Strong is by no means a perfect candidate. The editorial board of this newspaper would like to see more county residents on staff at the sheriff’s office. Strong has acknowledged the existence of police bias but stated that he has seen no evidence of racial profiling from his office. This is unlikely given that Missouri’s attorney general found Black drivers are 91% more likely to be stopped in the Show-Me State.

Strong does, however, have a clear platform and plans in place to better the sheriff’s department, but perhaps most importantly, he isn’t Darren White.

It’s important to note that by his own admission, White cares not for party affiliation. Meaning those who plan on voting blue on Nodaway County ballots will not find many, if any, of the Democratic Party’s platform or ideals in White.

White has refused to stop disseminating false information about the budget and claims that deputies of Nodaway County stopped working around the clock after his departure, even though he has been fact-checked by multiple sources. Instead, he's built his campaign on those fabrications.

Perhaps the most troubling issue with White is his fixation on Daisy Coleman’s case and attempting to vilify Melinda Coleman. Daisy Coleman was allegedly raped in 2011 while White was sheriff, and the case and the way in which it was handled put a national media spotlight on Nodaway County and White. The case ended with no jail time and much confusion, and it was the partial subject of the unflattering Netflix documentary “Audrie and Daisy.”

White suggested to a reporter at The Missourian that he wasn't convinced Daisy Coleman's death by suicide actually happened. He was promptly fact-checked; Daisy Coleman had indeed committed suicide in August. 

When given the chance to soften or outright recant his statements in a later interview with The Maryville Forum, he instead doubled down, suggesting that Daisy Coleman's death by suicide might have been an attempt to derail his campaign for sheriff.

These statements are disgusting and appalling. The sheer horror of these comments could not be understated. It lacks basic human decency and empathy expected of all of us, but especially those charged with protecting a community.

White has shown himself as a man obsessed with his past and rewriting history. His candidacy is not in the best interest of Nodaway County’s future. 

Randy Strong has a clear vision and direction, stating that he wants to give county residents the best possible sheriff’s department in his departure, whenever that might be. This editorial board believes that reelecting him gives the county a greater chance of achieving that.


 

What’s the biggest challenge facing Nodaway County, and how can the sheriff’s office help overcome that challenge under your leadership?

Randy Strong:

“I think crime, that we keep it low, impacts the way that we live in this county. It’s advantageous to our way of life around here and to the quality of life. So, we want to keep crime out and keep our crime stats low. So, to do that, I focus on investigations and making sure my deputies know how to adequately investigate a crime, how to deal with a crime victim and to deal with suspects.” 

Darren White:

“I think that the biggest challenge that’s going to be facing the county, at least in the upcoming years if not the next few years, is going to be budgets and money. I think that in light of this pandemic that we’ve been living through, it’s pretty safe to say that tax revenues are going to be down. There is going to be less money to draw upon, and I think that the sheriff’s office is going to have to step up and do their part to share that pain with other offices. At the same, they’re going to have to still provide the same level of service.” 

Follow-up: How do you feel you are equipped to handle what you believe will be a massive drop off in tax revenues?

Darren White:

“I think that the sheriff’s office is going to have to get back to some of the basics of law enforcement, some of the day-to-day things. Not having to spend so much time getting involved and, I hate to use the word, purchasing a bunch of toys and doodads that really don’t help to serve the day-to-day operations of being out on patrol and responding to the needs of the people, making sure that everybody feels safe living here.”

What’s the most important duty of the Nodaway County Sheriff?

Randy Strong:

“You have to look at this like a business, and you have to run it efficiently and effectively and within a budget. So, those are all very challenging aspects of it, but the final outcome of that is to make sure that we provide the best service to all of our citizens in the community, regardless of who they are or what their beliefs are.”

Darren White:

“Well, I think the most important duty of the Nodaway County Sheriff is being an advocate for the people. I think that as the sheriff being the only elected law enforcement official in the county, it falls upon him to be that advocate. To not only be the ears for the people but be the voice for the people. And in turn, respond and serve in a manner that suits what the people are asking for.” 

How would your administration address issues of policing biases, and what steps would you take to curb discrimination?

Randy Strong:

“We file out all of our racial profiling reports on car stops, and I have not seen any instances of that within my office. My supervisors all know that they need to watch for that. We have training in crisis intervention and diversity. You know, quite frankly, many of us around here have friends of different races, and I just don’t see that problem here, but we just take necessary steps that we need to make sure that doesn’t creep in. Our supervisors all watch reports, read reports, so we all try to stay on top of it.”

Darren White:

“I think that, of course, that’s all really come to the forefront in the last couple of months. When you talk about bias, I think that it’s an issue that probably always been there and people have tried to hold it at bay. But what people need to do, what people in law enforcement need to do, is understand that everybody is the same. We’re not just talking about color. We’re talking about different religious beliefs, different political beliefs, no matter what it is, but you have to treat people equally. Really, the golden rule applies, if you wouldn’t want to be, then don’t be treating people that way. In turn, if you treated people with respect, you might find that they also give that back to you. So, it’s really just a matter of connecting with people and not prejudging.” 

What are your public safety priorities for Nodaway County, and what specific changes, if any, would you enact if elected?

Randy Strong:

“My priority is to make sure that I have the best people that are trained, so that they know how to handle different situations. That they don’t let their biases get in the way. That we treat everybody consistently fair. That we have integrity and honesty in our job and that we back that up with training to keep them on top of everything.”

Darren White:

 

“My specific desire for Nodaway County is to get deputies back on patrol where they used to be and out in the county when they need to be. This is a very, very large county, almost 900 square miles. And the people that live outside of the city limits of Maryville, the only thing they have to rely on is this office, so they need those guys to be out there. They need to be seen all the time. They need to let not only the good people but the bad people know that somebody is out there watching.” 

If the Daisy Coleman case happened today, and your office fielded the call, how would you handle it?

Randy Strong:

“Well, amazingly different. We would have our first responding officer recognizing what the situation would immediately call for our trained investigator to come. The victim would be given some paperwork, that is now required by law, for the sexual assault survivor’s pack. And she would have all of that. We would contact the victim’s advocate, and we would sit down, and that person would work with them (the victim). We would take them to a medical facility where we would have a trained SANE nurse (sexual assault nurse examiner) meet with the victim, collect evidence, document any injuries, and we would get the statements. We would know if we had any witnesses, the locations if we needed to do a crime scene. And we would go in and meticulously go through that, interview the suspect, question the suspect and present the case to the prosecuting attorney’s office. We would make sure that our victim advocate stayed with our victim throughout the entire process and keep them informed.” 

Darren White:

“I would handle it the way that it was handled originally. When that call came in, the admissions deputy and contacted myself and the members of my administrative staff. We had, within a four-hour period, located all the suspects. We had them in custody. We had their audio and video statements. We had submitted the paperwork to the prosecuting attorney and had arrest warrants for all of those people. When you are able to do all of that in a four-hour period, that’s a pretty good deal. Now, the prosecuting attorney dismisses the charges; that’s on him. Law enforcement can’t file charges. Law enforcement can’t dismiss charges. Only the prosecuting attorney can do that.”

Why do you want to be Nodaway County Sheriff?

Randy Strong:

“I started this process, obviously, about four years ago. I promised the citizens that if they elected me, that when I left office, I would leave them with the best sheriff’s office that I could, and I think I’m well on the way of that. We’ve accomplished so much within the first four years. I want to do another term at least, and then at the end of that, we’ll see how I’m doing, but age-wise and health-wise, I turn 65 Nov. 3, on the election day. So, another four years is there, and I want to make this department the best it’s ever been.”

Darren White:

“I’ve spent most of my adult life serving the people of Nodaway County. I really believe that when I was the sheriff that we were in the position that I could have the sheriff’s office give the best service available, and that’s what I want to do again.”

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