In an election campaign, the opportunity to size up the candidates as each one delivers a statement and answers questions from the audience is as good as democracy gets. The outcome of a meeting with the candidates like the one held last Monday evening, May 5, at the Three Rivers Memorial Building translates to more informed voters making better choices in the upcoming June 3 election.
The evening began with the candidates for Tulare County Sheriff — Dave Whaley and Mike Boudreaux — using their initial three-minute spot to tell of their background, experience, and why they want to be elected to Tulare County’s top law-enforcement position.
Then each candidate had two minutes to address the same set questions listed on the agenda. Moderator Lee Goldstein of the Three Rivers Village Foundation guided the questioning so each candidate alternated having the first word and the last word.
When asked their top priority, both answered keeping Tulare County and its communities safe.
“I was appointed to take over for Sheriff Wittman last October, and I’m doing the job now,” said Mike Boudreaux. “I‘ve added 12 new officers and currently have $2.1 million left in the department’s $88 million the budget… and I have the full endorsement of the Board of Supervisors.”
Boudreaux said he is making lots of changes, including upgrading technology.
Whaley countered Boudreaux by saying that those positions he mentioned that were filled were vacancies and what the department needs is a complete audit.
“There’s a morale problem in the department right now that needs healing,” Whaley said. “I have the experience and strong leadership to fix these problems because I served as undersheriff for nine years under Bill Wittman.”
When asked what each candidate saw as the biggest difference between each other, there was an obvious contrast.
“There have been a lot of changes in the five years since you [Whaley] retired,” Boudreaux pointed out. “Training for our officers is ongoing… It’s a different world out there.”
Whaley acknowledged Boudreaux’s education and more time on the streets but said he has more experience in the administration of the department.
“There is a more effective way to utilize resources, and when I’m elected there will be two full-time deputies for the Three Rivers area,” Whaley said.
Both candidates came out as strong advocates for Second Amendment gun rights.
The race for District Attorney, which is somewhat lower profile, is being equally contested. In this office, acting District Attorney Tim Ward is facing challenger Ralph Kaelble.
Both candidates have similar experience, having landed jobs in the Tulare County’s DA office within a year of each other in the late 1990s.
Ward stated that it was difficult to recently dismiss some longtime employees; Kaelble criticized Ward for making the moves that saw 45 years of experience let go and pointed out that there is little diversity among staffers.
“I have lots of experience as a supervisor and the endorsement of the boots on the ground,” Kaelble said, “and I have lots of support within the current DA staff.”
Kaelble argued that if the DA’s office was more focused on justice and better trained, crime could be stopped before it ended up in a long, expensive trial.
Ward countered by saying that the morale in the office is high right now.
“We have over a 90 percent conviction rate right now,” Ward said. “We are more focused than in the past on crimes against children, elder abuse, and combatting rural crime. Why make a change?”