PENDER COUNTY — Randy Burton, unaffiliated, is running for Pender County Sheriff. Burton retired in 2018 as operations battalion chief with the Wilmington Fire Department. His career spans three decades working as a first responder.
Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate running in local elections in the tri-county region. The paywall is dropped on profiles to help voters make informed decisions ahead of casting their ballots.
As a reminder, the early voting period runs from Apr. 28 to May 14. The voter registration deadline is Apr. 22. Voters may partake in same-day registration throughout the two-week early voting period (check if your registration is active at your current address).
Primary Election Day is May 17. Voters will choose which candidates from their registered party they want to move forward in the formal election. Those who are registered as unaffiliated can choose which party’s primary they want to vote in.
Burton’s stances on issues are discussed below. All answers are included in full and the candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily. Responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity.
PCD: What sets you apart as a candidate?
Randy Burton (RB): I have a very unique and diverse public safety background that sets me apart from others. I have had a 38-year public service career that has encompassed over five years in Emergency Medical Services, over 34 years now as a law enforcement offficer, having been assigned various positions with both Pender and New Hanover County sheriff’s offices.
I also spent 20 years as a career firefighter with the Wilmington Fire Department until my retirement in 2018 as an operations battalion chief. I feel this gives me a broad understanding of the complex needs of the county. Law enforcement, EMS and fire rescue operate now, more than ever, in supporting each other’s roles. This definitely sets me apart.
PCD: School safety has become a central issue for police and sheriff’s departments across the U.S. If elected, how would you address safety concerns in Pender County schools?
RB: My position on school resource officers (SROs) has never changed. Assignment of SROs to the schools in this day and age is important and must include each and every school. The officers should be well-seasoned, highly trained veterans and not newly hired or those prior to retirement.
These positions are highly important for the safety and security of our most prized resource, our children! SROs should be physically fit, confident, approachable and professional. They should be mobile yet visible but never routine.
They should be assigned to every school in our county and be prepared to stop any threats of violence. They should be the first in and around campuses and one of the last to leave for the day. Parents should have a peace of mind their child is safe at school.
PCD: How should we be addressing the opioid crisis? What does and does not work from your point of view?
RB: The so-called opioid crisis is actually the greatest pandemic this country has been enduring! It’s not a crisis nor an epidemic; it’s the most underfunded assault on humanity in our country.
Over 300 American citizens a day lose their lives to this poison, most now are not “overdosing,” they are actually dying of fentanyl poisoning! This poison in trace amounts is now found in every street drug out there. This has impacted each and every family in our country, just like cancer has.
One must realize, first, you cannot arrest your way out of this problem. Substance abuse is a terrible disease that has many treatment paths, but as sheriff, it will be my priority to target the manufacturers, traffickers and distributors of this poison. They will be brought to justice — their money and assets seized and turned back over to the law abiding citizens of Pender County for further enforcement. The law abiding citizens shouldn’t be footing all the bill to remove this poison from our streets.
PCD: How should the Pender County Sheriff’s Office plan for population growth?
RB: This should have been taking place for decades now but hasn’t. Our law enforcement is an investment in our county’s health and livelihood! We tend to spend too much time reacting to events and less time planning, forecasting and positioning for growth.
Our county is 20 years behind in this proactive topic. There is no way one of the top growing counties in the United States consisting of over 50,000 people and more than 900 square miles is patrolled by just five uniformed deputies. This is a direct reflection of the inept leadership of the sheriff’s office current administration.
In fact, it’s unsafe and borderline negligent. Our citizens deserve law enforcement that is ahead of the curve and not always attempting to catch up. This can be done with proper planning and forecasting of growth.
PCD: Law enforcement agencies are having trouble recruiting and retaining in the current hiring climate. How would you ensure the county is obtaining the best deputies for the area?
RB: When you look at this, it’s simple. As sheriff this would be my first action item. The sheriff is elected by the people; that’s who he/she is held accountable by. The county commissioners (that control the purse strings in county government) are elected by the same people, so the sheriff establishes a working relationship with the county manager and county budget director first.
Then, he/she does the same with each and every county commissioner. This is when the sheriff compiles the data to show the need for a robust compensation and benefit package for the sheriff’s office employees. You will often hear that the county manager “shoots down” these requests before budget time and the commissioners “didn’t know.”
As sheriff, I will lay out this entire request in front of the county commissioners in a public videotaped meeting. This leaves no room for mistake and allows the citizens to be informed on budget items requested. This will ensure competitiveness and the ability to retain and recruit the best employees that will establish roots while raising their families. This gives employees a career and not just a job.
Our family’s safety and security are worth it!
PCD: What can and should be done to improve relations between law enforcement and historically marginalized populations?
RB: There are several things that can be done. I have practiced this my entire career: Treat everyone with dignity and respect! Serve everyone equally and stop with the us-and-them mentality!
Law enforcement officers are community members also with families. Our citizens are our customers. Far too many times officers lose track of these simple aspects of our job. I have been a law enforcement officer for over 34 years now and have always treated folks with dignity and respect.
What I can assure the citizens of Pender County is that the employees of the sheriff’s office will do the same when I am their sheriff.
PCD: Is there an additional issue or issues you think need(s) to be addressed during your term, should you win?
RB: I would just want our citizens to know as sheriff, I would ask myself a few questions weekly: Have I fought for the citizens in our county to have the best personnel we can get?
Have I continued to be transparent and inform or reach out to our citizens for information regarding the progress of violent crime cases we are working on in a timely manner?
Have I done everything in my power to make an impact on heroin/fentanyl trafficking and the poisoning of our family members?
Have I assured our parents and grandparents that I am doing everything in my power to protect their children in our schools?
These are just a few things I think about all the time, not just in a political season — but that’s why I am not a politician.
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