County sheriff race: Incumbent Jerry Clayton faces challenger Jeffrey Gallatin
Incumbent Jerry Clayton, a Democrat, is facing Republican challenger Jeffrey Gallatin in the race for Washtenaw County sheriff, which will be decided Nov. 6.
AnnArbor.com recently sat down with Clayton to talk about why he thinks voters should elect him to a second term. Gallatin was contacted several times to set up an interview, but both phone and email messages were not returned. Neither candidate has a campaign website.
Clayton was elected to the office two years after retiring from the sheriff’s office in 2006 after a 20-year career there.
“I was very familiar with the organization when I took office in ’08,” he said. “I’ve been doing the job now for four years. I think our track record since I’ve taken office has been pretty good.”
Clayton said managing the budget and partnering with other community agencies have been some of his biggest successes over his four-year term.
The sheriff’s office has been grappling with a $3 million budget reduction.
“I think we have effectively managed our budget,” he said. “Our ability to manage our budget really helps the county overall. (We’ve) still been able to effectively manage our dollars and deliver good service.”
One measure used was reducing overtime by $950,000 — $50,000 short of the $1 million mark, Clayton said.
The sheriff also says the department has partnered well with the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners under his leadership.
“I think we’ve re-established strong relationships with our community partners,” he said. “We’ve been able to work really well with the board.”
Clayton’s term began just as the financial collapse left many public agencies reeling. Clayton said the department has been striving for more collaboration. He cited contracting out services to the city of Ypsilanti, which would probably have had to eliminate police or fire positions.
“They were able to plug that hole in their budget,” Clayton said. “I think we’ve improved our brand, our reputation in terms as quality services, to the extent where (Ann Arbor) came to us and asked if we (could) provide dispatch services.”
Clayton cited integrating Ann Arbor into the county’s dispatch system as an example of a successful consolidation and also an example of a challenge.
“I underestimated the significant effort it was going to take to do the full integration of Ann Arbor dispatch with us,” he said. “But we’re doing it. I think when all is said and done it’s going to be good. I underestimated the tremendous drain on resources.”
AnnArbor.com has reported that the integration was delayed six-months, which cost the county $660,000 of revenue they were expecting, but did not receive.
Finding the resources and people to accomplish the tasks is a challenge Clayton said he didn’t totally foresee when he took office.
“I spent 20 years here,” Clayton said. “Coming in, you think you know what it’ll take to turn some things around or improve some things. The volume of things we had to deal with was significant. I underestimated the level of effort it was going to take to make some things happen.”
Out of the 10 Points of Change he ran on in 2008, Clayton said four or five of them are complete and another one or two are on track to be completed. But there a couple he hasn’t even gotten to yet, one of which being performance appraisals of staff.
“I think it’s important to give people objective feedback to how they’re doing their job,” he said. “We haven’t implemented that. I was hoping we’d implement that in the first four years.”
Most of all, Clayton wanted to stress that under him, the department has been a good partner to other agencies, from human to mental health services.
“I think in four years we’ve changed how people view the sheriff’s office,” he said. “I hope to be re-elected to continue that process. I’ve still got stuff to do. I’m excited about what I do. I love it. I believe in trying to be a good community leader. I take it very seriously.”