BEDFORD — Three candidates looking to become Bedford County’s next sheriff discussed why they should succeed retiring Sheriff Mike Brown on Tuesday.

Bedford County Capt. Tim Hayden, Bedford County Capt. Mike Miller and Bedford County Deputy James Kirkland discussed their candidacies during Tuesday’s meeting of the Bedford Professional Women at Liberty Station. The group hosted a forum for Bedford County candidates in contested races for the sheriff’s office, Bedford County Board of Supervisors and Bedford County School Board.

Hayden, Miller and Kirkland are hoping to succeed Brown, who announced he will not seek reelection in November and will retire from the sheriff’s office at the end of the year. Brown will end a nearly quarter century tenure as sheriff when he leaves office Dec. 31.

Hayden — a Bedford County native who oversees the county’s school resource officer program and the department’s community engagement efforts — said if elected, his focus would remain on school safety and expanding the SRO program beyond the current staff of five deputies by hiring more school resource officers and redirecting resources to the county’s 20 schools.

“I’m out in the schools every day of the week, and I know what is needed at these schools,” Hayden said. “We have about 10,000 kids we feel like are ours and we need more resources to keep these schools safe.”

Miller — a Bedford native who joined the sheriff’s office at age 21 — has worked in roles ranging from road deputy, to managing courthouse security and serving as the first SRO in Bedford County during his three decades with the sheriff’s office. Miller said he would focus on securing better pay for deputies and develop a five-year plan to allocate more resources to the sheriff’s office as the county’s population continues to grow.

“They don’t get paid enough to do the job we are asking them to do,” Miller said. “That is why we have a shortage of deputies out on the road and that is something I will address if I am elected.”

Kirkland — the longest serving K-9 handler in the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office — joined the sheriff’s office in 2000 after serving as a sheriff’s deputy in Campbell County and currently commands the Bedford sheriff’s office’s tactical response team and patrols the county as a road deputy. Kirkland said he would like to increase the number of deputies on the road by restructuring administrative positions.

“My main issue is manpower,” Kirkland said. “Manpower is critical out there. I want to eliminate some of the captain and lieutenant positions and convert them in deputy positions, which would allow us to put two officers on the road for each of the administrative positions we restructure.”

During the meeting, members of the audience asked the candidates to address concerns that included gang-related violence in Bedford County and the area’s growing drug problem.

“The MS-13 members involved in that incident were arrested that same night,” Miller said. “We can’t help if they come into the county but we can bring those people to justice and that is what we did. As for narcotics coming into the county, we are addressing that as best we can even though when we get one type of drug off the streets, another one takes its place.”

Hayden agreed.

“It’s a revolving cycle,” Hayden said. “It used to be cocaine and then it was replaced by synthetic drugs. Those were replaced by heroin and then pills and then crystal meth. It is something we have to control as best we can, and we are working to do that.”

Kirkland said more manpower is needed to combat the region’s drug problem.

“I don’t agree that the problem is just one drug leading to another,” Kirkland said. “We don’t need to fight any one drug but all drugs that come into Bedford County. We need to fight harder and we need more people to do that.”

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Shannon Keith covers Bedford County for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5530.

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