HOUSTON CO., AL (WSFA) - Voters in Houston County will have three candidates to choose from in the race for sheriff.
Current Sheriff Donald Valenza is seeking re-election. He's served as sheriff for over four years. He was appointed in 2014 to fill the vacancy left by of former sheriff Andy Hughes.
Valenza has worked with the department for roughly 39 years, not only serving as sheriff but worked as a corrections officer, criminal investigator, narcotics, lieutenant commander and chief deputy. He says during his term, he's implemented 14 new initiatives including passing a civil bill that allowed the department to update vehicles at no cost to the county, new radio system, new records software, and provided training for supervisors to detect the early warning signs of suicidal behavior in officers.
Valenza said if re-elected bridging lines between the community and sheriff's office would be one of his focuses, "The citizens, this is their department. I just want to make it better where they feel they can call us at any time,"
Valenza said he pushes to have an open-door policy where community members can talk to him directly regarding any concerns, "I just want them to know they can reach out to me 24 hours a day,"
Valenza said the county continues to face the challenges he's seen throughout his career and if re-elected the work will continue to resolve them, "We still have robberies, murders, burglaries," said Valenza, "But our job is to protect the people and serve the people where they can have faith in us."
Former Sheriff Andy Hughes is running for re-election. After leaving the department in 2014, he served as the assistant director of Homeland Security with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
Hughes says his goal was always to come back and serve as sheriff, but the move was necessary to get more experience to become a better leader.
"I got a whole new perspective on things and the way we can do things," Hughes said. "I think if you're only in one organization for your whole career you only know what the organization knows. I've broadened my horizons and perspective."
Hughes says some of the skills he's learned and hopes to bring back include new plans and policies to prepare the county to handle potential terrorist or criminal threats, "We have to make sure our training is reflecting with the trends.
"We can't train all the time for the scene and what we've seen. We have to train for the unseen and the things that may happen," said Hughes.
Hughes said he would also want to have more deputies visible in the community.
Randy Anderson is hoping to come out of retirement to serve as the next sheriff of Houston County. He worked at the sheriff's office from 1987 until he retired in 2017.
During his time with the sheriff's office, he worked in the K-9 unit, SWAT Team, Civil Unit, Narcotics, Investigations, School Resource Officer, Public Relations, Traffic Enforcement, and Director of Project Lifesaver.
Anderson said his draw to come back and serve stems from his desire to give back to the community.
"The love of it. The appreciation for serving the public. The feeling I can do more to help," said Anderson."We need so much help and I feel like my calling is to go back in,"
Anderson said having worked in the various departments within the sheriff's office prepared him to lead.
If elected, Anderson says he would like to push more deputy visibility and quicker response times. He'd also like to improve communication between the sheriff's office and public and overall safety.
"Our young people are dealing with the potentials that are coming. We see a lot of bombings and shootings not just in schools, but employment and other places," Anderson said.
The candidates are running of the Republican ticket. There are no Democratic candidates running for sheriff.