- Local News
--By Brad Wilkins on --
The campaign for Forsyth County Sheriff has been full of surprises. This week, I met with the Republican Party candidate for Sheriff, Duane Piper, to talk about recent events at the Sheriff’s office and other new developments in the campaign.
CummingHome.com: The biggest news from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s office in the last few weeks was that Sheriff Ted Paxton went to the county commission and asked for a $5 million reduction to the 2013 budget. What is your reaction to his decision?
Duane Piper: I thought it was odd. It was an odd action to take, cutting his own budget. He submitted the budget. His quote was that I wanted to cut the budget by $5 million and he was helping me out by doing it.
Where he cut the budget, the line item he cut, I believe was $2.6 million from housing inmates. That’s interesting. I’m not sure what he thinks we are going to do with the inmates that we have housed out of the county. Going forward, for specific line items like that, I would ask the commission to put that money back.
I campaigned on, and fully intended to fulfill the promises I made in my campaign, that I was going to cut the budget. That was one of the main thrusts of my campaign. I used $5 million dollars as an example during one of the debates or community meetings. Five million dollars is very reachable without cutting any services.
CummingHome.com: So, is the problem more of where he made cuts rather than the amount of the cuts?
Duane Piper: The problem of where he made the cuts is that it will force us to change line items. He and his command staff have been doing this for the past 12 years, which is getting a pile of money and spending it where they want. That is one thing I don’t want to do in my administration. I will avoid it at all costs. I don’t want to just move money around. I want to spend the money for the specific things it was budgeted for.
The other thing that he cut, about $1.8 million, in open positions, I will not ask for that back. That’s a good start towards the $5 million cuts.
CummingHome.com: Are those positions that are not currently filled with officers?
Duane Piper: That’s my understanding. Those are open positions. We have plenty of people to fulfill what I want to do without those open positions being filled. We will not have to lay people off.
CummingHome.com: Your opponent in an interview with CummingHome.com last week, made the claim that you have already asked for the $5 million back. Is that a true statement?
Duane Piper: I read the interview with him and, no it is not a true statement. It is an interesting statement. I don’t know who I would ask the money back from at this point. I have an idea of what I am going to have to ask for back. Like I said, housing the inmates out and fuel costs. He cut fuel by $300 thousand. How can we cut the fuel in half when we don’t know how much fuel will cost. I fully intend to get some of that money back.
When I say I’m going to cut $5 million off of the budget, I can’t take his organization the way he has it structured and do that for $5 million less. The restructuring has to take place first.
CummingHome.com: Can you give a real quick high level outline of your restructuring plan? What are the major places you think savings can come from?
Duane Piper: We have to take a lesson from the private sector when we start to restructure. Our product is public safety, keeping the community safe and providing services to the community. Personnel are of course the most expensive line item. We don’t cut the people that are providing the public safety and providing the services to the public. The cuts come from unnecessary management layers. I’ll give you one specific example. I’m going to cut out an entire layer of upper management. You currently have, after Captain, the rank of Major and Bureau Director before you get to Chief Deputy. I’m completely eliminating one entire layer.
CummingHome.com: Can that be done immediately or will it take time?
Duane Piper: That can be done immediately. My restructuring plan is already done.
CummingHome.com: Where do you think you can get the rest of the $5 million?
Duane Piper: Upper management layers and spending that is not necessary to provide the service to the public. I can give a specific example. The current administration spent about $130 thousand on just the mounted patrol. He claims $16 thousand and the rest comes from drug seizure fund spending. By not spending that money on the mounted patrol, that’s $130 thousand we can use to help reduce the budget. $5 million is very doable and it is a goal that will be met.
CummingHome.com: You have spent a lot of time studying the Sheriff’s budget earlier in the campaign. Have you seen any changes in how the Sheriff’s department is spending money since the end of the Primary? In Particular have you seen any changes in how they are spending the drug seizure money?
Duane Piper: I have done no open records requests since the run off. I am in regular contact with numerous people in key positions in the Sheriff’s office. I am being told that spending is accelerating drastically. Throughout his administration Sheriff Paxton has bought numerous new vehicles for himself and his command staff. That has continued. His latest purchase was another new pickup truck just in the last week or so. The drug seizure fund is basically depleted at this point.
I have not been contacted by anyone in the command structure since I won the run-off. I would have hoped at this point for some cooperation in the transition. They are choosing not to.
CummingHome.com: Another thing that has changed between the end of the primary and today is that you now have a challenger who is a write-in candidate, DT Smith. Did you know he was going to run?
Duane Piper: He called me about a week or two after the run-off was over. His specific question to me was, would he still have a job on the command staff at the sheriff’s office. He is in one of the highest paid layers of upper management. I told him that layer was being eliminated. He told me that he was going to run against me as a write-in candidate.
CummingHome.com: What is the biggest difference between you and the write-in candidate that you want the voters to think about when they cast their ballot?
Duane Piper: I represent forward thinking ideas that will turn into action for improving the way we conduct ourselves, improving the services that we provide and cutting the budget without reducing services, by working smarter with a constant emphasis on serving the public. The write-in candidate represents a moribund bureaucracy that has been created the last 12 years. He, along with Sheriff Paxton created it. Sheriff Paxton and DT Smith took the budget from 12 million dollars to 38 million dollars in three terms. That is probably the biggest difference. I represent bold leadership that is constantly looking for improvements.
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