Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 7, 2010

Keelin, Castle vie in sheriff’s race

Ken Hart
The Independent

CATLETTSBURG — Two veteran law enforcement officers will face off in the Democratic primary for Boyd County sheriff.

Incumbent Terry Keelin, seeking his third term in office, is facing a challenge from Boyd Deputy Jailer Rex Castle. Whoever wins the primary will be unopposed in the November general election, since no Republicans filed to run for the office.

Castle, 54, is a shift captain at the Boyd County Detention Center. He served with the Boyd County Police Department from 1995 until the agency was dissolved in January 2007. He also worked for 25 years as a security office at King’s Daughters Medical Center, and spent 19 years with the Ashland Auxiliary Police.

Keelin, 53, a former Kentucky State Police trooper, said he believes voters should return him to office based on what he has achieved during his first two terms. He said he believes he has raised the bar for the sheriff’s department in terms of professionalism and quality of service.

“I think my record speaks for itself,” he said.

He cited a long list of accomplishments, including, among others, increasing the number of deputies, creating an operations manual for the department, establishing a merit system for office, computerizing both tax and law enforcement records and increasing efficiency in the service of court papers and tax collection.

Keelin also noted that as of Dec. 31, his deputies had performed more than 8,700 criminal investigations during his tenure in office.

“We investigate crimes now,” he said. “We don’t just report them.”

But Castle said he believes there’s an element that has been mostly absent from the sheriff’s department, and that’s why he decided to run.

“What I think has been missing from the sheriff’s office is community involvement,” he said. “I’d like to see some of those projects return.”

The main initiative Castle said he’d like to revive is the DARE, or Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, for elementary school students.

He also would like for the sheriff’s department to become a member of the FIVCO Area Drug Enforcement Task Force. That would necessitate hiring another deputy and assigning him as a member of the multicounty task force. The county would be eligible to be reimbursed for a portion of that officer’s salary. Currently, no Boyd County law enforcement agencies are part of FADE.

Keelin said he believes joining FADE is unnecessary and would essentially be a waste of a deputy. He also said the sheriff’s department does just fine fighting drugs on its own, citing the more than 1,200 drug arrests that his deputies have made since he took office in 2003.

Keelin also took issue with the contention that he hasn’t been involved in community projects. He cited the Ashland Boyd County Police Athletic League and the Neighborhood Watch program as two such initiatives he has overseen.

One issue that Castle said has been frequently mentioned to him by people he has spoken to on the campaign trail is a lack of patrols in areas south of Interstate 64, including Burnaugh and Durbin. He vowed to have a patrol deputy working those areas full-time if he is elected.

That’s a nice idea, Keelin said, and one that he had himself when he first ran for sheriff. But, he said it’s one that’s currently unfeasible because of manpower and budgetary constraints.

“When probably 90 percent of the population lives north of I-64, that’s where most of your calls are going to come from, and that’s where you have to have people working,” he said.

Keelin said he would love to be able to increase the size of his force, but that he ultimately has to live within the budget parameters that are set for him by the Boyd County Fiscal Court.

Other ideas Castle said he has for the sheriff’s department include working more closely with the county’s elected constables and allowing them to train with sheriff’s deputies, and instituting a reserve corps of deputies to perform duties such as working security and sporting events and parades.

Among the jobs Castle said he believes constables could be utilized for is working with Neighborhood Watch programs. He said he’d spoken to the candidates running for constable and all were agreeable to the idea.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.