by Mary Rupert
In the Nov. 7 election for Wyandotte County Sheriff, incumbent Donald Ash faces a challenge from Celisha Towers, who formerly worked in the Sheriff’s Department.
Ash easily won the primary Aug. 1 against a field of five candidates, receiving 49.9 percent of the vote to Towers’ 21.82 percent. Ash was unopposed four years ago and is seeking his third term.
Sheriff Ash said at the Oct. 17 candidate forum at KCKCC, sponsored by Business West and other neighborhood business revitalization groups, that there were many things the Sheriff’s Department was able to do in the past eight years, and some things they wanted to do but did not have the resources to do.
“We have to balance the needs of the community and the government,” with the tax burden they put on residents, he said.
“We have reduced overall costs, we have reduced the burden on the taxpayer,” Ash said. There are other things he’d like to do, to provide an adequate level of service at an affordable cost, he said.
Towers emerged from the four challengers on a campaign theme that there were problems that needed to be addressed in the Sheriff’s Department, including a need to educate persons in the jail so they can improve their lives, as well as better pay and a better working environment for those who work there.
“We have to have a dialogue that takes place within Wyandotte County,” Towers said at the Oct. 17 candidate forum at KCKCC. She said she would make sure a dialogue is in place with the community, and she would put resources in place to lower recidivism rates and crimes.
Ash said one of his strengths is in building relationships and partnerships with people and officials. He said a data-driven analysis was used to improve the housing situation at the jail. He said he has partnered with state and national officials to find ways to fund programs to reduce crime in the county.
Towers said one of her strengths is that she would use her experience and background as a foster child to help individuals who are incarcerated in the jail, teaching them to navigate through the system and become successful. Individuals and youths need to be shown how to be entrepreneurs, learn how they can study to receive skill certificates, and learn how to be self-sufficient, she said.
“We have to get the community involved, back into the resources of the corrections system,” she said. She added she would get the community involved, build mentorships, and make resources available to those in the juvenile facility and in the jail.
“Crime is not a crime problem, it’s an economic problem, and we have to provide those resources for those individuals before they re-enter society and not have to have them reinstitutionalized,” Towers said.
Both candidates spoke about the relationship with the community.
Towers said she already has a relationship with the community and she would make sure her community was involved with training and resources to help individuals get back into the community. She said a community service unit will help her hire officers, view video footage, and help prepare individuals who are incarcerated to re-enter the society. The community has just as much right to reintegrate the individual into the community as any other person involved with the case, she added.
“We have to have cohesive training and resources where we help them get back into the community,” she said.
Ash said the key is building relationships in the community, and that he served on boards throughout the community such as ones that support early childhood education programs; he advocates on a national level to make sure funding continues to come in for programs for single parents; and he works with YouthBuild to help youth complete their general education certificate to make sure they are employable. He also serves on an advisory board with the Boys and Girls Club, which supports youth programs dealing with social issues.
Towers, 33, is a former employee at the Sheriff’s Department, until July 2016. In 2016 she was listed as a jail detention deputy. She has worked for sheriff’s departments in other communities, as well. She has received training in several areas, including tactical training, detention, legal issues and community policing. She is a graduate of Schlagle High School who received an associate degree in pre-law, and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She said during the campaign that she is in the process of seeking a master’s of legal studies, with the eventual goal of a law degree.
Ash, a 1971 graduate of Washington High School, has an associate of arts degree in criminal justice from Kansas City Kansas Community College, a bachelor’s degree in management of human relations, and a master’s degree in management and organizational leadership from Mid-America Nazarene College. He served in the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department from 1972 through 2006, and was a past division commander for the central, south and west patrols of the Police Department. He also is an elected member of the Board of Trustees at KCKCC. He has served as a coach and a youth leader.
According to the U.S. District Court website, Towers has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit, a civil case, against the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Department and the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 40.
Other issues were discussed at the candidate forum, and to see a video of the forum with candidates for sheriff, visit https://www.youtube.com/user/KCECable.
The candidate forum video also is playing on the KCKCC cable channel, on Spectrum (Time Warner) on channel 17, and on Google TV on channel 146, at 2 p.m. in the afternoons daily through Nov. 6.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Advance voting is taking place; to find out about advance voting and advance voting places, visit http://wycovotes.org/.
To view a story about the primary campaign for sheriff, visit http://wyandottedaily.com/sheriff-takes-on-crowded-primary-race-after-battling-myeloma/.
To view stories about the election, click on Election 2017.