Carbon County Sheriff Candidates Debate


With the general election quickly approaching, one of the biggest debates within the county is who to vote for, for Carbon County Sheriff. Castle Country Radio gave the citizens the opportunity to meet the candidates in a debate last week.

Beginning the debate, candidates Sheriff Jeff Wood and Zach Palacios were both asked to introduce themselves to the audience before answering various questions that were submitted.

Sheriff Wood, who recently passed the milestone of 30 years in law enforcement, has served eight of those years as Carbon County Sheriff. He began his career as a merit patrol deputy in 1992 and served under the Carbon County Sheriff Office (CCSO) as a patrol officer, investigator and drug task force agent. He then served Wellington City Police Department as a patrol officer for a short time before returning to the CCSO under Adult Parole and Probation in 2001 until he was elected as Carbon County Sheriff in 2015. He currently oversees the Carbon County Jail, the patrol division, detectives, SWAT, emergency management, search and rescue, drug court, animal control, civil process, court security, community supervision/pre-trial release program, and school resource officers.

“I come with a lot of experience,” said Sheriff Wood. “I’m the little boy that wanted to be the sheriff from the beginning and worked forward my whole life to get to this point.”

Carbon County born and raised, Palacios’ experience began in 2002 with CCSO as a correctional officer in the jail. After three years, he was promoted to jail sergeant, where he served for six years. Later on, he served as court security in the Justice Court, then expanded his knowledge by taking a job opportunity in the civil process.

“I feel like I’ve impacted the community with my involvement, but this opportunity as the sheriff offers me the platform and a position to even impact it more,” said Palacios.

While the budget within the county has become a large topic over the last several years, the CCSO’s budget sits at over $2 million. Both candidates were asked how they plan to stay within budget for the sheriff’s office.

Palacios plans on reallocating resources and integrating civilian staff to answer questions on non-emergency questions rather than a deputy as a way to cut budget if elected sheriff.

“I don’t want to be a product of that increase,” said Palacios. “I want to make an effort to help reduce that.”

Sheriff Wood stated that he has operated within budget all eight years that he has served due to pursuing grants, decreasing the vehicle budget by not paying for the top-of-the-line vehicles and by having Carbon School District pay for 75% of the wages for the resource officers that are located in the schools. He also disagreed with Palacios’ plan to introduce civilian staff due to increasing the workforce.

With Carbon County ranking as the top county in Utah for drugs and drug overdoses, both candidates were asked a series of questions regarding the fight against drugs within the county.

Palacios explained that over the span of the last two years, drug overdoses have been on the decline. He stated that this is due to 543 doses of naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal nasal spray, distributed by the Southeast Utah Health Department.

“It has nothing to do with what the sheriff’s office has implemented,” stated Palacios.

Sheriff Wood disagreed with Palacios’ statement, declaring that the CCSO has taken great measures on the opioid epidemic in Carbon County, especially with the use of naltrexone and vivitrol, opioid blockers, within the jail.

“I’m not going to take credit for these numbers going down, this is a communal effort, but I do think it is very naïve and disrespectful to say CCSO has not made great progress in the last years on the drug and opioid problem,” said Sheriff Wood.

Both candidates were also questioned on their vision of the sheriff’s office over the next four years.

Sheriff Wood stated that he plans on continuing the fight against drugs, but his big plan is getting ahead of violence by offering new trainings on bullying and cyber-bullying to prevent dangerous catastrophes, such as teen suicide.

“I stand strong for victims of crime and I want to see those victims taken care of,” said Sheriff Wood. “We need to get ahead of violence.”

Palacios took more of a welcoming appeal with his four-year plan. He plans for the CCSO to be more approachable by being actively involved and being able to communicate with those in treatment as well as the family of those that are incarcerated.

“The sheriff needs to be approachable,” stated Palacios. “We need to be seen as a person before an officer.”

In the concluding statements, Sheriff Wood was the first to close. He stated that eight years ago, he stood in front of Carbon County with a big agenda. He promised to attack the drug problem within the county, holster school security, develop a special victims unit and work on fiscal responsibility.

“Every one of those boxes have been checked,” stated Sheriff Wood. “I’m asking for your vote on Nov. 8.”

Palacios began his closing statement with stating that he has the county’s best interest in mind. He plans to expand on the programs that Sheriff Wood has implemented to reverse the stigma of only seeing the statistic rather than the person. He also plans to assemble CCSO to be more proactive by being in the communities where the drug rates are high.

“If you’re not in the community, you’re not being physical, nothing is going to change,” stated Palacios.

Sheriff Wood and Palacios will meet up once more before the election along with candidates for Carbon County Commission during the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce’s upcoming luncheon. The luncheon will be on Thursday, Oct. 20 at the USU Eastern Alumni Room at noon. To RSVP, please click here.

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