Dolph Bryan has been Oktibbeha County sheriff since 1976, but four other candidates vying for Oktibbeha sheriff feel a fresh perspective is warranted.
Bryan, 68, has held the office of Oktibbeha sheriff since 1976 after a brief 3 1/2 years as a deputy with the OCSO. In his 35 years on the job, Bryan has graduated from the National FBI Academy, the National Fire Academy, Department of Homeland Security”s terrorism bomb school and suicide bombing seminar and myriad additional training programs.
Bryan has been a citizen of Oktibbeha County since 1943 and attended classes at Mississippi State University as well as the University of Alabama.
He points out succinctly that he wouldn”t have held the office for 35 years if citizens didn”t feel he was the best man for the job.
“I love my job and I love the citizens of Oktibbeha County. As long as I”m productive, I want to stay here and help the best I can,” he said.
Bryan says illegal drugs are becoming more prolific in the county due to the poor economy and need to be curbed. He says he can do this while simultaneously keeping the OCSO budget in check.
Bryan is a Democrat.
Steve Gladney, 55, has also devoted 30 years of his life to law enforcement. He spent 28 1/2 years with the Mississippi Highway Patrol and now works part-time with the Starkville Police Department.
Gladneys is a Winston county native but has lived in Oktibbeha since attending MSU 31 years ago.
“I”ve been in law enforcement my whole life. With the training I”ve received from the highway patrol, I still feel I have something to offer the citizens of Oktibbeha,” he said.
Gladney, who is a Democrat, also sees narcotics as one of the driving issues behind the 2011 sheriff”s race.
Rudy Johnson, the president of the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, would have been a life-long law enforcement man if a punch press accident hadn”t cost him his hand back in 1969.
Instead, Johnson, 60, went into administration, earning bachelor”s and master”s degrees from MSU. The Kosciusko native, who has lived in Oktibbeha since 1970, spent 10 years as the assistant director of East Mississippi Community College Golden Triangle before taking the helm at the GTPDD.
Growing up, Johnson was mentored by a highway patrolman following his father”s death when Johnson was 12 years old. He became an auxiliary deputy under Bryan, but says “the only way I”ll ever be a true law enforcement officer is to be elected.”
Johnson believes his work overseeing the GTPDD”s $17 million budget and 200 employees makes him the best candidate to oversee the OCSO. Plus, he”s got plenty of experience with elected officials.
“I don”t care how many employees the OCSO has. If you don”t have good communication you can have 1,000 employees and never succeed,” he said.
Johnson, a Republican, wants to focus on drug and gang activity in Oktibbeha.
Jessie “Bone” Oden is another former law man hoping to put his experience to work for the citizens.
Oden, 67, retired from the OCSO in 1998 after 22 years on the job. The Oktibbeha native has completed law enforcement certifications at the state and federal level in addition to SWAT training and 40 hours of classes at MSU.
Oden has remained active in law enforcement since retiring and points to his experience as his greatest asset.
“I”ve worked every type of case there was from the smallest misdemeanor to the highest felony. If it”s happened, I”ve worked it,” he said.
Oden says people “deserve better than what they”re getting” out of the OCSO and plans to offer improved service as well as closure for lingering cold cases.
Oden is a Democrat.
Charlie Sanders went a different route in law enforcement, but says he”s no less qualified to run the county office.
Sanders resigned from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to campaign full time for sheriff. During his time with MDWFP he managed the Oktibbeha County lake and other local resources. Prior to that he spent eight years as an auxiliary deputy with the OCSO, 25 years as chief of the Memphis City Fire Department and six years in the Marines.
He has 30 years of management experience in addition to training in high-risk explosives, hostage negotiation, crime scene investigation and several additional disciplines.
“I want to put my 30 years of experience as a public servant to work for Oktibbeha County to make our county as drug free and crime free as possible,” he said.
The Oktibbeha native says drugs have continued to grow as the county”s top problem, so the OCSO must grow by staying current with changes and amendments to laws and state-of-the-art training.
Sanders, a Democrat, says the two factors that weigh heaviest in a company”s or industry”s decision where to locate are the crime and education statistics of the community in question. He hopes to do his part to bring order and jobs to Oktibbeha County.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.