Republican Adam Shepherd easily won his long race for Gila County Sheriff Tuesday, thanks mostly to North County voters.
Northern Gila County voters historically support Republican candidates and this election was no different. The county divided along both party and regional lines for nearly every race.
Some 60 percent of votes cast for sheriff came from precincts north of Roosevelt Lake, which assured Shepherd of the win. Shepherd received more than 10,000 votes overall, while Craig Jones got 7,500.
Jones (D) said he was happy and surprised to receive as many votes as he did in Rim Country.
Shepherd’s general election campaign actually turned out to be much less contentious than the Republican primary, where he defeated sheriff’s deputy Darrell Stubbs. For his part, Jones defeated deputy Ray Van Buskirk in the Democratic primary.
The general election proved a polite affair, without a trace of negative campaigning by either of the two candidates.
Jones explained several weeks ago that he anticipated winning most of the south, where he is better known for his work with the sheriff’s office. He knew Shepherd would likely take the north, since he lives in Payson and has worked many years out of the Payson substation as undersheriff.
Still, Jones said he campaigned hard in the north.
He and Shepherd squared off in a number of friendly debates, both locally and in Globe. The men clearly divided on who should run the jail and the need for overall change in the sheriff’s office. Jones said he would bring this change and promised to both improve service and get rid of Major Jim Eskew, who runs the jail in Globe.
Shepherd said he didn’t think the office needs a total overhaul and offers good service. He said he wanted to modernize the jails, but keep jail commander Eskew in charge.
Both men refused to say anything negative about one another. Some say Jones could have been more aggressive, given Shepherd’s advantages.
On Wednesday, Jones said he was happy with how he had run his campaign and was praying Shepherd would do a good job.
“I put it in the Lord’s hands and it didn’t go that way for me,” he said. “Thanks to all the people that did vote for me, thanks for all the support. I am walking away with my head held high.”
Shepherd said Jones had been a formidable opponent.
“I sure don’t have anything bad to say about my opponent,” he said.
After the win, Shepherd said Wednesday his No. 1 priority is rebuilding the administrative staff. A number of staff have either left or retired, he said.
“We have to get that strong again.”
Shepherd said he is excited to get back to work at an office where he has spent the majority of his 28-year law enforcement career. He left his position as undersheriff to run for office.
Shepherd will take over the reins of the office in early January from outgoing sheriff John Armer, who held the post for 12 years.
“It is time to go forward and get on with the mission,” said Shepherd, noting he anticipated a smooth transition.
Jones said he didn’t have any clear plans for the future, but planned to relax a few weeks.