Three facing off in Custer County Sheriff’s race

Joel Peterson | Courtesy Photo

CHALLIS — Incumbent Custer County Sheriff Stu Lumpkin is challenged by two independent write-in candidates in the 2020 General Election.

Joel Peterson, a deputy currently working under Lumpkin is still campaigning as a write-in. Also hoping to get elected is Scott Drexler, a Challis man with no formal law enforcement background.

The race is essentially a repeat of the 2020 primary election. The only difference is that the write-in candidates are now running as independents, while Lumpkin retains the Republican Party nomination.

EastIdahoNews.com asked the three candidates to respond to the eight same questions. Lumpkin never returned numerous emails and phone calls and Drexler failed to return any responses despite agreeing to participate.

Peterson’s unedited responses which were required to be 250 words or less are listed below.

You can learn more about Drexler on his Facebook page.

You can learn more about Peterson on his Facebook page.

Lumpkin does not have a campaign website or Facebook page.

Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.

Peterson I am married with four children. The oldest three are adults and we have one teenager still at home. I grew up in Meridian and moved to Arizona after high school. I joined the Phoenix Police Department in 1992 where I started working in patrol for ten years. I then was promoted into a specialty street crimes unit where I received extensive training above normal patrol requirements. I retired in 2013 after serving almost 22 years.

My wife, Sabrina, was raised in Challis so after I retired we moved back home to Idaho. I taught P.E. at Challis Jr/Sr. High School and coached Junior High sports for a couple of years but continued working in law enforcement. During the summer I worked as the Marine Deputy for Custer County patrolling the lakes. In 2017 I joined the Custer County Sheriff’s Office as a full-time deputy. I challenged Idaho’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) and earned my Idaho POST certification in 2018.

What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?

Peterson My proudest accomplishments in my personal life are my children. My oldest two sons both served our country in the military. My son Nate is still serving full time in the Arizona National Guard and has decided to make the military his career. All of my children are hard-working, honest and successful people.
Regarding my career as a law enforcement officer, there are several highlights. I received awards for life-saving and report writing and was recognized for my contributions to Homeland Security investigations. However, the accomplishment that means the most to me is the trust and faith given to me by the men and women with whom I worked. The situations we faced and the work we did together have built lifelong friendships and close bonds.

Why are you a member of the Republican party? Briefly explain your political platform.

Peterson As a young man, I was greatly influenced by Ronald Reagan. His vision of America resonated with me. I believe in self-reliance, personal responsibility and the wisdom of the Constitution. I want a small government that only does what is necessary.

My political platform is based on three main points. Professionalism, Training and Community. I believe these three points are the pillars of law enforcement. I go into detail on these topics on my campaign Facebook page Peterson for Sheriff 2020.

What are the greatest challenges facing your county?

Peterson From a law enforcement view the greatest challenges facing Custer County are physical size and budget. We cover almost five thousand square miles. Most of our county is public land so we have to rely on PILT money since our tax base is so small. This leads to a very small budget and a small Sheriff’s Office. We currently have nine law enforcement officers including the Sheriff. This small staff and budget make it very difficult to properly train and equip the deputies. I believe training is the key to better prepare our staff to handle the responsibilities placed upon us.

The other obvious challenge is our poor jail facilities. The voters have rejected the jail options given to them by the county commissioners. I will be willing to support any jail options that the voters approve. Until that time I believe that the jail needs to be closed and only used as a temporary holding facility.

How is your party’s ideology better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than those of your competitor?

Peterson The people of Custer County are largely a very conservative group. My competitors both registered as Republicans for the primary and there were no liberal candidates. This election will not be about party but rather who the citizens believe is better suited to deal with the challenges facing the Sheriff’s Office.

How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?

Peterson I have heard from people on both sides of the political arena and listened to their concerns. I believe that the biggest concern from the constituents is a lack of professionalism. Liberal citizens have told me that they feel the Sheriff’s Office does not listen to them because of their political views. Conservative citizens complain about the way they were treated by employees. By improving training and holding employees accountable we can represent everyone fairly and equally.

What trait, attribute, or experience do you possess that best qualifies you to manage public employees and handle public funding?

Peterson My experience is the best attribute that I will bring to the Sheriff’s Office. I have investigated thousands of criminal complaints. That equates to speaking to thousands of different people. I was blessed to have that experience and it taught me how to communicate with all types of personalities. As a senior squad leader in Phoenix I was responsible for organizing and managing grant funded operations. Those years of experience have given me the skills to deal with difficult personalities and situations.

What are your views regarding the role of the media in covering your county? How can you best work with local reporters to ensure coverage of the issues?

Peterson I know that accurate media reporting is essential to successful law enforcement operations. The public usually gets its first impression of incidents through media coverage. By working with local reporters and building trust I believe that the truth should be available quickly to the public. There will be times that law enforcement must be cautious due to investigative security but I will always be available to speak to the media and public.