Editor’s note: In an effort to provide equal time, this story is the second of a three-part segment about a forum last week involving candidates for local, state and federal governmental office. The event was conducted and hosted by AMVETS Post 23.
GALLIPOLIS — Candidates for law enforcement offices in Gallia County pleaded their case in front of voters during a “Meet the Candidates” event last week hosted by AMVETS Post 23.
Gallia County prosecutor and incumbent Jeff Adkins took the stage with Gallipolis attorney Jason Holdren. Both addressed those present with their platforms in their bid for the office of Gallia County prosecutor.
Adkins spoke first. He has served as Gallia County prosecutor since 2004 and worked in the prosecutor’s office previously for Joe Cain. Adkins also worked for Brent Saunders, also a previous prosecutor. Adkins referenced his experience prosecuting dozens of trials over his career, as well as using drug forfeiture money in the law enforcement trust to fund drug rehabilitation efforts such as the Field of Hope campus and Wing Haven therapeutic center.
Money has also been used, he said, to help buy new cruisers for area police, as well as hire experts to assist in court proceedings and purchase canine units. Adkins said the prosecutor’s office was able to acquire more than $1 million for the trust fund. Adkins touted the formation of the Gallia-Meigs Major Crimes Task Force partnership with his office and was proud to list its accomplishments such as the bust of a pool hall and four other locations earlier this year in stopping alleged drug activity in the area.
Adkins stressed his experience of around 30 years in the prosecutor’s office and wanted to continue with its endeavors and asked for voter support. Adkins spoke of his close ties with existing law enforcement agencies and how his phone held dozens of direct numbers to officials that may need to speak with him. Adkins is a Democrat.
Holdren spoke next and told the crowd he had been practicing since 2009 in both West Virginia and Ohio. Holdren said he has focused on criminal law since the inception of his office and it had always been his passion. He referenced his experience as an assistant prosecutor for Vinton County and was able to handle jury trials, murder cases, arson cases and child abuse cases, as well as others.
As a defense attorney, he has significant trial experience and feels it was important. He feels his experience as a defense attorney helps him better prepare to face other defense attorneys in trial, if he were to be elected as prosecuting attorney.
Holdren said he currently practices in Gallia, Meigs, Vinton, Jackson, Lawrence and Athens counties in Ohio, as well as Mason, Cabell, Jackson and Putnam counties in West Virginia. He feels his experience in seeing how other counties operate lends strength to his bid for Gallia County prosecutor.
Holdren said he promoted drug courts like the one Municipal Court Judge Margaret Evans spoke of during the event and found ways to rehabilitate or prevent offenders from becoming worse addicts and potentially greater societal problems further down the road, as well as holding offenders responsible for their crimes. Holdren, in Vinton County, was able to also bring $900,000 in delinquent taxes back to county services. Holdren is a Republican.
Both candidates asked for support in the fall.
Both Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning and Lt. Matt Champlin, of the Gallipolis Police Department, stepped up to discuss their bids for Gallia County sheriff.
Browning started his career as a corrections officer in the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office in 1987. He eventually became full-time as a deputy sheriff. He was a shift sergeant as well as road patrol officer and served Gallia under four previous sheriff’s before being elected sheriff in 2008. He has served as sheriff ever since.
Browning spoke of the office bringing in a “state-of-the-art” communications vehicle which was funded through a grant at no cost to taxpayers. The office also has a federally funded water rescue patrol boat and equipment — also at no cost to taxpayers. The office is currently in the works of equipping a dive rescue team from grant funds.
The sheriff addressed how the office is fighting a national drug epidemic with local funding. The more grant money acquired by the office to fight that, the better, he said. The sheriff praised the Meigs-Gallia Organized Crimes Task Force and local officers compromising it with making several busts throughout the years. He said funding for it is a challenge, but was proud of the sheriff’s office for participating.
The sheriff’s office has made alliances with local therapy centers to bring licensed therapists into the Gallia County Jail to treat those suffering from behavioral issues. Browning said the sheriff’s office offers crisis intervention training and has received awards from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for that under Browning.
Browning received 2015 Crisis Intervention Law Enforcement Administrator of the Year award from the Ohio AG’s Office.
Browning is a Democrat.
Champlin said he attended peace officer training immediately out of high school. He worked with the Rio Grande Police Department, served as a special deputy with the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office, served as a dispatcher for the Gallia 911 Center and was a juvenile probation officer in common pleas court all before the age of 21. He took his first full-time position with the City of Gallipolis.
Champlin said he found his niche with the city investigating drug crimes. In 2001, Champlin received his first police dog and continues to train and utilize them. Champlin has also been trained in meth lab disposal and retrieval. Champlin said his career has been about specializing in drug abuse prevention and interdiction.
His first promotion came in 2005 as sergeant and again to lieutenant in 2010. He has handled duties as a field training officers, as well as the overseeing of his colleagues. Champlin stressed the need to make certain officers have the proper training and certifications to get their jobs done. Champlin further emphasized that he wished to make the county a place so uncomfortable for drug dealers that they would not consider wanting to set up shop in the region.
Champlin is a Republican.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.