A Republican candidate for Gila County sheriff got a head start on the campaign trail Wednesday, venturing into potentially unfriendly waters at a Democratic meeting.
This is the second time Darrell Stubbs has run for sheriff. Four years ago he actually ran as a Democrat.
But Stubbs is now running as a Republican, a move he said came after losing the last election.
Stubbs said his disappointment with the President Barack Obama’s administration and issues he had with another democratic group spurred his move to the red side.
Stubbs added the office of sheriff should really be nonpartisan and that is how he plans to run it if elected.
Some Democratic members were not thrilled at the idea of hearing Stubbs speak Wednesday, but Cindy Backes, the group’s vice president, said she had invited Stubbs, who is a personal friend.
“I back him 100 percent,” Backes said.
For an hour, Stubbs laid out his plan for “taking back the county.”
It includes housing low-risk inmates at the county yard east of Star Valley and adding additional metal buildings near the Globe jail to help mitigate overcrowding.
Stubbs said he is also campaigning to build a juvenile facility in Payson.
So often, he said, teens know they will not be transferred to Globe’s juvenile facility. Housing juveniles is crucial to get them back on track and taking their crimes seriously.
Other ideas Stubbs presented include having an independent audit done at the sheriff’s office to highlight unnecessary spending. Stubbs said the office spends a lot on cell phones and vehicles.
“When I am sheriff, no sheriff department vehicle will be taken by any employee that lives outside the county,” he said.
Currently, several employees drive a county vehicle to their homes outside the county, he said.
In addition, Stubbs would like to hold bi-monthly meetings throughout the county with a representative from every law enforcement agency present to listen to resident’s concerns and brainstorm solutions.
Stubbs said open communication between agencies is desperately needed. Just recently, after a bank robbery in Globe, the Miami Police Department was not notified. With the towns so close together, it is outrageous they would not work together on cases like this, he said.
“It is bad communication,” he said. “I would like to put something together so that all the agencies work together,” he said.
Stubbs currently works for the Miami Police Department, after retiring from the Gila County Sheriff’s Office to run for office four years ago.
Stubbs has worked throughout the county, covering nearly every position — from trash collector to deputy county sheriff.
This experience prepared him to run the most important law enforcement agency in the county, he said.
Stubbs will likely face an opponent in the general election who has a lengthy law enforcement history.
Retired Department of Public Safety officer Craig Jones is expected to run as a Democrat.
Stubbs said he had nothing bad to say about Jones. The men worked as partners in law enforcement and remain friends.
Stubbs said he encourages voters to pick who they think will do the best job, even if it is not him.
“I want people to know what I am about. If they think I am good enough to do the job, hire me, if you don’t, hire who you think is the best,” he said. “This job is about who you are.”
Stubbs grew up in an Indian village in northern Arizona where his dad worked at a sawmill.
At 10, his older brother was killed while serving in Vietnam.
After the death, the family moved to Globe where Stubbs’ father took a job in the mines.
Never one to sit around, Stubbs said he started working in the community.
As a freshman, he led a church youth group and at 14, joined the Civil Air Patrol.
At 15, he was awarded the Civil Air Patrol’s Bronze Medal of Valor after saving a hunter’s life. The man was out in the woods when he accidentally shot himself. Stubbs drove the man to the hospital in the man’s vehicle.
“I learned to drive that day,” he said. “When I received that, I was the first person in Arizona to ever receive the Bronze Medal of Honor. I was only the seventh in the United States at the time.”
Throughout school, Stubbs worked odd jobs around the campus after hours.
When he graduated, he went to work for the sheriff’s office, first in the jails as a detention officer.
Ultimately, he settled in Tonto Basin where he served as the president of Tonto Basin Kiwanis, a 4-H leader and helped start the fire department.
He also returned to the Civil Air Patrol, this time as a lieutenant out of Payson.
His accomplishments were marred by several personal losses. His oldest son, who fought the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, was killed soon after the fire. Three years ago this month, Stubbs lost his youngest son. A drunk driver killed him in Montana.
Today, Stubbs lives next door to his father in Globe and remains active in several organizations.
For 10 years, Stubbs has headed up the Gila County division of the Choirboys Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club. The group donates money to families of officers killed or injured in the line of duty.
He has also worked with Arizona Children counseling troubled youth on the San Carlos Indian Reservation.
During his 25 years with the GCSO, Stubbs worked as a rescue diver at Roosevelt Lake and a school resource officer in Pine, among other positions.
Stubbs said he wants to see the county unified and believes he can do it.
“The problems we are having here, the crimes that are going on, are not just in the unincorporated parts, but the towns, cities, the reservations — this is all one county,” he said.
“I always hate when people talk about the division of the county — north vs. south, Payson vs. Globe, San Carlos vs. Globe, somehow we have this division and if we want to strive for success we need to be unified.”
The Democratic club plans to host Jones and anyone else running for sheriff at future meetings.