Candidate challenging IOW sheriff

Published 10:35 am Wednesday, April 15, 2015

J. Russell Stephenson, a lifelong Isle of Wight County resident with experience in law enforcement, has announced his intention to become the next sheriff. Mark Marshall, the incumbent, has already declared his intention to seek reelection.

In a statement released to the press on Tuesday, Stephenson said he decided to seek the position because he “feels as a law enforcement agency, we are heading in the wrong direction.”

“In 2011 there were seven school resource officers, one D.A.R.E. officer, and today we only have three [SRO’s] with no D.A.R.E. officers,” Stephenson said, and added that he “feels this is unacceptable as this leaves our children, teachers and school staff unprotected.”

His solution would be to restore the SRO’s, and he said that he’d be able to do so with no additional funding.

“We have gone from 37 deputies in 2012 to 27 in the 2015-2016 budget. Being understaffed causes unnecessary overtime expenditures and long hours for the patrol units, as well as increased levels of stress among our deputies,” Stephenson said.

His solution would be to have four scheduled deputies on the road covering four districts with a supervisor on every shift without increasing the budget.

He added, “We must stop the unnecessary spending immediately. The 2012 adopted budget was $3,189,447, but the actual amount spent was $3,785,562. That’s $596,115 over budget. The 2015-2016 requested amount was $4,364,001…what we have is approximately $1 million more being spent with 10 less deputies.”

Stephenson, who has 27 years as a business owner in financial services — Primerica — stated that he began his law enforcement career in late 1991 as an auxiliary deputy volunteering many hours serving and protecting the county’s residents. In November 1992, Stephenson became a full-time deputy. From 1992-1997 and from 2010-2015 he served in many capacities including: patrol, School Resource Officer, administration, court bailiff, civil process and warrant service. Stephenson pointed to his biggest accomplishment: acquiring and installing the very first E911 CAD (computer aided dispatch) system. That included setting up a local area network of multiple computers, installation of software and training all dispatchers and sheriff’s office personnel on the use of the system saving the county thousands of dollars.

A resident of Windsor, he and his wife, Sylvia, have been married since 1982. They have two children, Craig and Rebecca, both graduates of Windsor High School.

During a phone interview, Stephenson said that becoming sheriff “has been a long goal of mine, and I always felt this day would come. About three years or so ago, I just felt the time was approaching soon and didn’t really know when until about three or four months ago. I got the urge to put my feelers out and see what happens.”

“I’m feeling it’s more so for the citizens than myself,” he said about running for the office. “I feel I have pretty good background. I think I can understand the budget and work it very well.”

Campaigning began in earnest earlier this month, and Stephenson also said he’s been “heavily engaged in talking to people.”

He said he’ll be a “hands-on sheriff” spending time in the entire county, and that he wants “the opportunity to be your sheriff with a personal touch.”

Contact Stephenson with questions or concerns at: