Adams County residents got a chance Thursday night to hear their sheriff candidates speak publicly at a debate held at the Council Elementary School.
This race has garnered interest far beyond the borders of the west-central Idaho county due to the tumultuous past year following the death of rancher Jack Yantis at the hands of two sheriff’s deputies. State and federal prosecutors found insufficient evidence to charge the deputies.
Sheriff Ryan Zollman, a 38-year-old Republican, has been with the department for almost 14 years. He’s running for a second four-year term against independent newcomer Thomas Watts, a 60-year-old retired Nevada sheriff’s deputy.
Dale Fisk, editor of the Adams County Record, said there was a standing-room only crowd for Thursday night’s debate. He estimated a crowd of up to 250 people.
Attendees submitted written questions to the candidates. Fisk said the dominant theme was: vetting and training of new hires, the candidates’ experience in law enforcement, what each would have done differently in the Yantis case and their involvement in the community.
“Many seemed concerned that Watts would fire all the current officers and hire outsiders,” Fisk said. “He said he would not.”
KBOI-Channel 2 recorded the entire debate. You can watch that here (fast-forward to about 4:45 for the start of candidate statements).