Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Femling takes lead in sheriff’s race

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling held a commanding lead over challenger Steve England shortly before midnight Tuesday as votes continued to be tabulated in the sheriff's election.

With 13 of 15 precincts counted, Femling led with 5,464 votes, or 66.1 percent compared to 2,808 or 33.95 percent for England.

Femling is a Republican seeking his sixth term as Blaine County's sheriff. England, who ran as an independent, is a lieutenant with the Hailey Police Department.

"We're happy with that," said Femling. "You never really know what to expect, but we felt like we were in a good position. I win because I have really good people."

Even though he was trailing, England was not ready to concede.

"I've gone this far," England said. "I might as well ride it out until the end."

The sheriff's race has strained relations somewhat between the sheriff's office and the Hailey Police Department as the candidates traded barbs and insinuated that one agency was performing better than the other.

England, in particular, has criticized Femling for what he describes as a failure to retain officers within the sheriff's office, pointing out that the office has lost eight employees within the past year. Femling has countered by saying that he most often loses good officers because of the cost of living in the Wood River Valley.

England has further said that he would increase patrols in more rural parts of Blaine County, which he said is not being done enough now because of a deputy shortage in the sheriff's office.

Femling said he continues to try to recruit good deputies but sometimes loses them because of higher pay and lower living costs elsewhere, particularly in the Treasure Valley.

In a recent forum sponsored by the Idaho Mountain Express, England said the sheriff's office needs more drug enforcement officers, needs to provide more patrols in all parts of the county and needs to work more with the community to combat crime.

"I also have no professional interests and I will be your full-time sheriff," said England, making a reference to jail consulting jobs that Femling sometimes does.

Femling cited his 20 years experience as Blaine County sheriff. He said his office has a good track record in solving murders and other violent crimes, in making large drug busts and managing emergencies such as last year's Castle Rock Fire.

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