“I think in the first 12 years I’ve been as outspoken, as transparent [as possible], and wear my heart on my sleeve and I speak from the heart,” Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood told 17 News.
Elected in 2006, Sheriff Donny Youngblood has held his title for three terms, until now, unchallenged.
“This has kickstarted me in a lot of different areas and that’s a good thing,” said Youngblood.
The Vietnam Veteran and Kern County native is perhaps most well known for his hard line stance on immigration.
“I’ve stood in front of the board, I said, ‘Please vote declare us a non-sanctuary county, that we are a law and order county,'” said Youngblood.
But as of late, the Sheriff’s Office has faced challenging times.
“It’s easy to be the sheriff when money’s there,” said Youngblood with a smile.
Arguing his political experience will be invaluable to fighting for KCSO’s budget and raises for deputies and detention officers.
“I met with the board members, we started with the two academies, we’re catching up. At one point we were over 100 vacancies we’re down to about 70. And we’re gonna work that down I hope to zero and then we’re need to add staff because we don’t have enough,” said Youngblood.
The two major KCSO unions, the Kern Law Enforcement Association and the Kern County Detention Officers Association back his opponent Chief Deputy Justin Fleeman.
The detention officers released a 2006 video of Youngblood speaking about the financial impact of a deputy killing someone versus injuring someone.
Youngblood emphasized he was speaking about the financial burden of bad cops.
Youngblood said he has never advocated shooting to kill, while acknowledging he could have chosen his words better then.
The Sheriff noted some decisions like pushing for random drug testing has frustrated unions.
“I’ve taken cars away because of speeding, we do speed audits every day. They don’t like that, but sometimes to be the sheriff you have to make those tough decisions that aren’t popular with unions and sometimes not popular with employees,” said Youngblood.
We asked Youngblood what specific changes have been made in the department in the aftermath of drug convictions of disgraced former Deputies Logan August and Derrick Penney.
“I realize that’s been brought up by my opponent who was in charge of the property room at the time the narcotic came up missing. He wants to hold me responsible and he was in charge of the property room,” began Youngblood.
But doesn’t the buck stop with the sheriff?
“It does stop with me, but I don’t need all those people if I’m gonna do all this myself. That’s why we have Chiefs,” responded Youngblood.
Fleeman says the sheriff is wrong, and he was not in charge of the property room at that time.
Youngblood anticipates his county paid travel expenses–$116,000 for 139 claims throughout his tenure according to a public records request by 17 News–could be a talking point for his opponent.
“20 years ago you could be the Sheriff in Kern County and never leave the county and nobody would care, this communication and dialogue is absolutely necessary, its expensive, I get that, but it’s absolutely necessary if we’re going to be effective in keeping the public safe,” explained Youngblood.
Remember barring something unexpected this race will be over in June, if one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote.
Thursday night we will bring you our interview with challenger Justin Fleeman.
And both candidates will join 17’s Jim Scott Saturday on Kern County: In Depth…at a special time 4PM.