Brown, two challengers, vie for sheriff's office

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By Tom Wilmoth

The Bedford County Sheriff's race has proven to be the hottest of the locally challenged races in the county this year.

Bedford County Sheriff Michael J. Brown, who first took office in 1996, is being challenged by Darryl A. Updike and Charles D. Green for that constitutional office.

Brown is running as a Republican and Updike and Green are running as independents.

Sheriff Michael J. Brown

Sheriff Mike Brown is seeking a fourth term in office as Bedford County Sheriff.

The Bedford County native has more than 40 years of law enforcement experience at the local, national and international level. He's served as Bedford County sheriff since 1996. He touts his experience as a reason voters should reelect him as sheriff.

"I'm a known commodity," Brown said. "People know what I stand for. They know where my priorities are."

When he announced his candidacy in April, Brown noted that in 2005-2006 Bedford County had 255 arrests for drug violations in the county. He also noted that through the Blue Ridge Thunder unit the county had made more than 140 arrests with a 100 percent conviction rate. In all since 2001 the unit has investigated more than 500 online enticement cases, 2,400 child pornography cases and eight child prostitution cases. More than 600 cases have been referred and some 20,000 citizens, teachers, students and law enforcement personnel have been trained in online safety.

Other accomplishments Brown touted included:

? Creating of the Rural Service Volunteer Patrol, a volunteer unit that helps handle non-essential calls. That program was established in 2001, and now has 19 members and two fully equipped volunteer patrol vehicles. The unit provides escort for funerals, conducts parking lot security patrol, writes warning tickets for expired or illegal parking, assists stranded motorists and conducts traffic control. This, Brown said, allows deputies to stay on regular patrol.

? The Citizens Police Academy, in which graduates are eligible to participate in special events such as ride-alongs, event hosting and community education.

? The Senior Citizens Assisting Law Enforcement Services, made of up seniors, RSVPs, who volunteer time to maintain contact with those citizens who are housebound or disabled and who live alone.

? The Tactical Response Team which includes training for hostage negotiations, hazardous materials, terrorist threats, weapons of mass destruction and specialized weapons.

? Motor Carrier Unit, in which some deputies are trained and certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to inspect commercial motor vehicles and their drivers.

? Having school resource officers placed in each of the county's middle and high schools.

? Beginning the reverse 911 program which allows emergency messages to be sent to county and city residents if needed.

? Securing more than $4 million in federal grants since 1998 for the county, much through the efforts of Robin Sundquist, an assistant to the sheriff, who heads up the grant research program. These funds have been used to purchase in-car cameras, computer equipment and software, and to fund SRO officers and the reverse 911 program. He said, in general, those grants are funded by taxpaying citizens of the country, not just county residents.

? Blue Ridge Thunder, a federally funded Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. "I am especially proud of our Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the work our investigators assigned to that unit do in taking the child sexual predator off the streets," Brown stated. He also noted the work to make Internet safety education mandatory in K-12 grades in Virginia. "We were also responsible for the educational program, NetSmartz, being adopted by the Department of Education to fulfill the requirement for an educational program by July of this year."

"I'm obsessive about protecting kids," Brown said, whether it's on the Internet or from drug dealers. "I will take that title and wear it proudly."

He said those who would criticize Blue Ridge Thunder have not taken the time to investigate what the unit does. 'You're either with us, or against us," Brown said of the program. "If you're against us, someone has to tell me are you ignorant to the facts of what is happening to children around the world...or do you somehow appreciate or enjoy child pornography. It's very cut and dry."

"How could anyone who has concern and love at all for children not support an operation like this?" he asked.

Brown said criticism that the unit entices people into committing a child pornography crime ? suggesting entrapment ? don't take into account the fact that the unit has a 100 percent conviction rate for those crimes. He said there are stringent regulations about how such cases are pursued.

Among his other positions prior to serving as sheriff, Brown worked as a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as a staff support specialist with the CIA, , as a tactical officer in the special operations division of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., and as an instructor to the U.S. Department of Justice's International Crime Investigation Training Action Program. He currently is a member of the Virginia State Crime Commission's Sex Offender Task Force and Attorney General McDonnell's Youth Internet Safety Task Force.

Brown is a member of the board of directors of the National Sheriff's Association, where he currently serves as the chair of the technology committee, and is a member of the Congressional Affairs Committee.

Brown states for the future his plans are to continue with what is currently being done, "working to keep illegal drugs out of our communities in Bedford County, keeping gang activity out of our schools and out of our communities and working hard to educate our children and their parents about the dangers of the Internet."

He said that includes "aggressively going after the sexual predators that surf the Internet for their next victim."

Darryl A. Updike

Darryl A. Updike, a 24-year veteran of the Bedford Police Department, wants to be the next Bedford County Sheriff.

This is Updike's second try for the post. He was part of a five-way race in 1995 after Sheriff Carl Wells retired. Brown won that one and has been sheriff ever since. Updike has said that he got into a career in law enforcement because he wants to help people.

At present, his duties include serving as Bedford Middle School's school resource officer. This was a natural evolution for him. Back in 1990, he became the city's second D. A.R.E. officer, which preceded the current G.R.E.A.T. program. It wasn't something he volunteered for. The police chief asked him to do it.

Not long after the school shootings in other localities back in the '90s, Updike became a school resource officer. This is a duty for which he volunteered. As a second job, he coaches wrestling. He coached at Staunton River High School for six years and coached at Liberty last year. Updike, by the way, is a Staunton River graduate.

Updike said he got the feeling from hundreds of area residents, while circulating petitions, that Brown should be replaced. This gave him his campaign slogan, "It's time for a change."

"Each person I spoke with had various concerns and complaints," Updike said. He said public officials need to be accessible to everybody ? and account"

"When mistakes are made, we need to own up to those mistakes."

He also said victims need to be kept informed, through follow-up, on the progress of an investigation.

Updike sees becoming sheriff as a natural evolution in police work for him. He said he's worked with budgets and carried out initiatives. His work with the Bedford Police Department has allowed him to wear multiple hats, including some budget development. He said since the Sheriff's Office covers the city, as a city police officer he has worked with issues that affect the county. He's also worked with the Sheriff's Office on drug education, neighborhood watch and TRIAD.

He also points to his military experience. He recently retired from the Virginia National Guard after 22 years of military service which included four years in the regular Army. He was the family support group coordinator when Alpha Company deployed to Afghanistan in 2004. Prior to the deployment, he talked with soldiers to find out what their concerns were and worked to solve problems that he found.

In recent years, he also worked on the battalion level with guys who went over the hill. He worked to find out why these guys went AWOL and with an aim at resolving problems. Another duty was as the 1st Battalion's retention NCO, a duty that covered a territory from Pulaski to Clifton Forge. This involved human resources issues such as pay and promotions. He said he has managed groups of as many as 300 people.

One goal is to develop closer connections between sheriff's deputies and the community. He said that, when he first joined the police department, everybody knew the deputies. According to Updike, this is no longer true even though there are twice as many deputies as there were in the early '80s.

He questions how Operation Blue Ridge Thunder is being used. He sees the need to protect children, but feels that the program should focus on working with law enforcement in the locality where a predator that they've discovered, lives.

Updike said fiscal restraint should be practiced by the Sheriff's Office. "People's pay checks don't grow on trees," he said, stating tax dollars can't be regarded like that.

"If people do want a change, then I am the candidate who can make the effective change for them," Updike said.

Charles D. Green

Sergeant Major Charles D. Green, a United States Army retiree and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp instructor at the Bedford Science and Technology Center, believes he has the leadership qualities needed to run the Sheriff's Office.

Green and his wife Lola have lived in Bedford County for the past 12 years and attend the Church of God of Prophecy in Huddleston. He is a 1970 graduate of James River High School in Botetourt County, a 2000 undergraduate of Liberty University with a bachelor of science degree in multi-disciplinary studies and a 2001 undergraduate of Lynchburg College with a bachelor of arts degree in history.

He is a lifetime member of American Legion Post 54 and Disabled American Veterans, a shooting instructor for the JROTC program, National Rifle Association and Civilian Marksmanship Program and a member of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

"I believe in the people of Bedford County and I believe they need someone who can listen to them, someone who can take care of things that need to be taken care of in the county, and someone who wants to really work for them and make things happen," Green said. "They need some good, strong leadership."

Green enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1970 after graduating from high school and served with the 509th Transportation Squadron. After being discharged, he went to work for Ingersoll Rand in Roanoke, holding a variety of positions. While employed with Ingersoll Rand, he served two years with the Virginia Army National Guard, 116th Infantry Company in Roanoke, and two years with the United States Army Reserve 80th Division Training in Lynchburg before returning to active duty.

"I was a soldier 24/7 and I will be their sheriff 24/7," Green stated when he announced his intention to run in May. "I will have an open door policy to make myself available to the public should a citizen have a question or concern."

He states that he had training and management experience in finance and budget preparation, along with personnel management and administration and supply and security operations.

He feels one of the most important goals for the Sheriff's Office is the protection of children, working closely with school officials "to safeguard our children and other law enforcement agencies to help protect our communities."

His reform issues include:

? Stop truck inspections on U.S. 460. and the continuous setup of radar there.

? Increase patrols in high crime areas.

? Provide protection for all fire and rescue workers at all fire and accident scenes.

? Work with other law enforcement agencies to curtail the flow of illegal drugs into the county.

? Bring the budget of the Sheriff's Office in line with the needs of the county.

? Improve response times by deputies.

Green said while the mission of Blue Ridge Thunder is good, it should be used for Bedford County. "We should never lure pedophiles into the county," he said. "That's what has happened in the past."

He said there should be a team established to handle child abuse cases from start to finish. "All children need protection," he said, not just those that have access to the Internet.

Green said he has the leadership skills to direct the Sheriff's Office in a new direction. "They want a person they can relate to. ...They want a person who is going to listen to them and take action."

He said voters should think about the person they intend to vote for, the positions that candidate stands on and the changes that candidate wants to make. "Make the right decision. The decision they make is going to affect all of us for the next four years," Green said.

He said he appreciated all of the area residents who have supported him during the campaign.