CEDAR CITY — The two candidates running for Iron County Sheriff, incumbent Republican candidate, Mark Gower and write-in candidate Dave McIntyre, met in a debate hosted by the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service at Southern Utah University on Thursday, where they shared their stances on possible changes to the ambulance system, values, law enforcement agencies and dealings with the federal government.
More than 220 community members packed into the Living Room of the Sharwan Smith Student Center, where three members of the Leavitt Center Executive Council acted as moderators, asking the candidates questions they previously decided on, as well as those submitted from the audience.
The Center also organized a candidate meet-and-greet before and after the debate, where the public could speak with candidates for House Districts 71 and 72 and Senate District 28.
In his opening statement, Gower commended the audience for showing up and showing an interest in the upcoming elections.
“It all starts right here at the grass-roots level getting involved in politics and the elected offices within your county,” Gower said.
McIntyre is a sergeant in the Cedar City Police Department; in his opening statement, he said that a sheriff is a public servant who should always do what is right and what is best for the community he or she is serving.
Three characteristics that best qualify for the position
When the candidates were asked what three characteristics best qualified them for the position of Iron County Sheriff, McIntyre said his would be passion to get the job done, to make sure it’s done right and done in a way so that it would not have to be addressed again in the future.
“When I have a belief in something that I know to be right, I’m going to do whatever I need to do to accomplish that within the law,” McIntyre said.
Gower said his three would be compassion, common sense when it comes to performing at his job and the knowledge and background to ensure the job is done correctly.
“I’ve spent my whole career immersing myself into this to make sure I’ve done the job right,” Gower said. “I know who I work for, I work for the people and that’s what is most important.”
The possible privatization of the Iron County Ambulance
One question posed to the candidates was their opinion on recent discussion in Iron County to move the Iron County Ambulance over to a private service. Both McIntyre and Gower said they were not in favor of the switch because it was not in the best interest of the community.
Gower said when he first heard the Iron County Commission was considering the idea, he let his disagreement on the issue be known. Gower also said he spoke with other cities and counties where the switch to a private service was made, and hasn’t heard anything to make him believe it would be a good idea.
“I don’t want to see a privatized service in this county,” Gower said. “I think we have an excellent service that we can manage and we can make it work.”
McIntyre said the switch to a private service would also leave out certain rural areas in the county where an ambulance would not be constantly available.
“They aren’t going to put an ambulance and a crew in Modena or in Parowan to sit there and wait until there is a call,” McIntyre said. “We need to stick with what we’re doing now but we need to figure out a better way to run that service.”
Proposition 9 in Enoch City
A current resolution from Enoch City Council, called Proposition 9 on the voting ballot, calls for an increase in property tax to fund municipal operations in the city. If the resolution does not pass, and Enoch City is forced to make cuts in the city’s police force, both Gower and McIntyre said they would be willing to assist Enoch City.
The sheriff’s roll, Gower said, is to provide coverage for the entire county, whether it is in the city or not. Should the police department make cuts — or even completely dissipate — the Iron County Sheriff’s Office would assist with coverage in the area until Enoch City finds an alterative solution.
“I hope the proposition passes (and) they are able to retain their police department out there,” Gower said. “Enoch has an excellent police department and they do a good job.”
McIntyre, a resident of Enoch, said he would be in favor of assisting the city law enforcement if the Enoch City Council was also in favor. He said that the city leaders should come together and make a proposal to take to the Iron County Sheriff’s Office and the chief of police explaining the assistance they feel is needed.
Does Iron County need two separate SWAT teams?
Originally, Gower said, the Iron County Sheriff’s Office was involved in the Iron Metro SWAT team, but eventually made a breakaway from the team and formed their own — popularly called the Dirt Team — because they felt one team was not effectively meeting their needs.
“I’m not saying it is out of the question if we could ever be back and join with the (Iron Metro) SWAT team,” Gower said. “But there has to be a lot of forethought and planning into that to ensure the needs of the citizens I serve are met.”
In his role as a task force commander, McIntyre said, he had experience of having to juggle between the two different SWAT teams depending on what type of case he was working at the time. This was not very efficient and often times not enough officers would show.
“We don’t need two SWAT teams,” McIntyre said. “We need one combined team staffed with enough people so that when there is a call out we’re going to get more than six or eight (officers) to show up.”
In rebuttal to McIntyre’s statement, Gower said the two teams have worked good together on multiple occasions. There is no problem in the working relationship between the two and they get along well, he said.
McIntyre said he disagreed that the teams work well together because they do not train together on a regular basis.
“If you don’t train together, you’re not going to work together,” he said.
Cliven Bundy standoff with federal agents
In a question asked by an audience member, the two candidates were asked what they would have done in a situation similar to the Cliven Bundy standoff with the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada in April.
McIntyre said the situation went too far, and the sheriff involved could have put an end to the confrontation long before it turned into the dangerous dilemma that it did.
“He failed to do his job,” McIntyre said, “he failed his people by doing that.”
Gower agreed with McIntyre, and said the Clark County Sheriff did not perform his duties adequately. If he were in a similar situation, Gower said, he would not have followed that example.
“My role in that would have been to (meet) with the BLM long before they came into the county and went over their plans to see if it lined up with the local law enforcement …,” Gower said. “If it wasn’t than it wouldn’t have happened. There is a peaceful way to solve everything.”
In his closing statement to the audience, McIntyre thanked all who came for helping the event to have a great turnout. He said he filed as a candidate in the race because he hopes to better serve the citizens of Iron County, and give them a choice in the election.
“A candidate unopposed is merely an appointment to office,” McIntyre said. “This decision should be made by everybody, not just a select few. You have a choice in this election.”
Gower said his time as sheriff has shown he has the hard work and dedication needed to keep the office strong.
“When I took office, I made the goal to try and improve the Sheriff’s Office on many levels,” he said. “Since that time … we have made great accomplishments and we continue to improve daily.”
Early voting began Oct. 21 and runs through Oct. 31. The general election is Nov. 4.
Both candidates urged any community members who have questions or concerns to contact them.
- Sheriff Gower aims to work closely with fellow law enforcement, community; seeks re-election
- McIntyre rejoins race for Iron County Sheriff
- Iron County considering potential privatization of ambulance service
Email: [email protected]
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.