Roanoke City Democratic Sheriff Candidates Discuss Issues

By Valerie Garner

Tim Allen (L) and Joe Bush (R)
Tim Allen (L) and Joe Bush (R)

Roanokers may be paying little attention to the local Democratic Primary Sheriff race scheduled for June 11. The incumbent Republican Octavia Johnson is seeking her third term as Roanoke City’s sheriff. She narrowly defeated Democrat Frank Garrett in her last election in 2009.

At the annual Roanoke Valley Democratic Women’s Wine and Cheese event held at the Ramada Inn the candidates for office and their surrogates were given a few minutes to introduce themselves. The RVDW do not endorse any candidates in primaries.

Joe Bush ran for the Democratic nomination for Sheriff in 2009 and is giving it another go. Bush is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College with a major in Spanish and Political Science. Bush served 15 years in law enforcement and part of that time as Deputy Sheriff in Prince Edward County. He resigned his position as a Probation and Parole officer in the winter of 2012 to run for Roanoke City Sheriff. “I served as an officer of the court and transported offenders and investigated crimes,” said Bush.

His platform includes making improvements to the community outreach program. “Inmates can help in communities by mowing grass, picking up trash and setting up community events,” he said. He advocates for inmate programs that help them reintegrate back into society. “It helps cut down on recidivism,” said Bush.

Morale in the sheriff’s office needs improvement and Bush says he will accomplish that by seeking employee input. “The turnaround rate is outrageous,” said Bush. There is a high cost to training new recruits he said. Bush also decried sheriff office nepotism. He advocated for more fuel efficient cars and efficiency in transporting inmates.

Tim Allen’s  is running for Sherriff for the first time. He and his wife Myra and two children live in Northwest City.  Allen has 26 years of professional law enforcement and corrections experience. He served in the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office for over 21 years reaching the rank of Lieutenant.  He worked in the Jail, in the court services division, and the DARE Program.

Allen is a certified General Instructor, Firearms Instructor, DARE Instructor, and an FBI certified Crisis Negotiator. In 2008 he became a Captain at the Western Virginia Regional Jail. “It’s a stressful job dealing with inmates and criminals from four jurisdictions day in and day out,” said Allen.

Allen was a member of the Regional Jail’s transition team responsible for opening the new correctional facility in Roanoke County. In September 2010 he was promoted from Assistant Security Division Commander to Major and assumed command of the Services Division.

Allen is a graduate of the Basic Jailer Academy, Cardinal Criminal Justice Police Academy and of the National Jail Leadership Command Academy in Houston Texas.  He recently retired from the Western Virginia Regional Jail to run for Sheriff of Roanoke City, a long-time goal of his he said.

Allen agreed with Bush that there needs to be more staff involvement. “That’s not going on right now.”

There needs to be more training divvied out. “There is only about one percent of the folks that are able to get some of the training.”

Allen plans to implement Regional Cooperation.  “This will strengthen relationships with other local and federal agencies.”

If elected he would increase the inmate work crews from 2 to 4 fulltime crews. “This would allow the citizens of Roanoke to have work crew assigned to each quadrant of the city. It saves the taxpayers a tremendous amount of money and allows an inmate to give back to his or her community. This will help with recidivism.”

Allen said he would also address staff morale. “Having an Employee Advisory Committee will give staff an opportunity to address the issues and be a part of the solutions.”

“My focus and my goal –  if I can keep a jail clean, orderly, staff trained and people focused then certainly it’s going to be a safer place. I’m not a politician – I’m a jail administrator … I’ve truly enjoyed this process and the opportunity to get out and meet folks,” said Allen. “I’ve been well received.”