Two-term Sheriff J. Adam Shepherd looks well on his way to winning a third term in Gila County after crushing three candidates in Tuesday’s primary.

Shepherd had 52.37% of the votes as of Tuesday night.

Darrell Stubbs, who has run at least four times before for sheriff, took 29.77% of the votes; Richard Shaw, 9.92% and Ron Hanse, 7.70%. All the candidates have worked for the Gila County Sheriff’s Office during their careers.

Shepherd will face Democrat Chris Bender in the general election.

Bender currently works as a patrol sergeant for the Miami Police Department and has also worked for the GCSO.

Upon seeing the votes Tuesday night, Shepherd said he felt honored that residents would put “their faith in me once more.”

“I’ve never wanted more than to serve my community,” he said. “That’s not a commercial, it’s always what I have really felt.”

Shepherd has served as Gila County sheriff for the past eight years.

He hopes to be reelected so he can continue to improve on the changes he and his staff have made throughout the agency and improve on a few things, like increasing the ability of citizens to get information from the office without having to contact staff.

Shepherd said campaigning during the pandemic posed a host of challenges.

He could not get out and meet with voters face-to-face, and on social media there were several personal attacks.

“You always wonder if what the opponents are saying, if they are going to resonate with the voters,” he said. “But, we stayed the course.”

Shepherd said you will never find him disparaging an opponent and leaves tactics like that to “other people.”

Shepherd has worked for the GCSO for 35 years and lived in Gila County for 43 years.

He graduated from Payson High School and received his bachelor’s degree, with an emphasis in public administration, from Northern Arizona University. He later graduated from Northwestern University’s Police Staff and Command School in police management.

Under his leadership, the sheriff’s office set up one of the first law enforcement Facebook pages in Gila County. The GCSO also has an app where residents can view mugshots and get community notifications.

In the next four years, Shepherd said he would like to add automated reporting of accident and traffic information to the state to allow for faster retrieval of information by motorists.

Bender, who calls himself a conservative Democrat, said he is running because he thinks Shepherd has done a poor job running the jails and patrol divisions.

“There is only one patrol deputy on most shifts for all of southern Gila County, resulting in response times exceeding 20 minutes for high priority emergencies and several hours for regular 911 calls,” he said.

Bender said he would also focus on unnecessary spending.

Contact the editor at abechman@payson.com

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