Ron Navarro fully expected to be appointed Boundary County sheriff two years ago when Bruce Whittaker resigned.
Navarro had served as chief deputy for three years but lost the political appointment to detective Greg Sprungl. Navarro resigned from the department in disgust. Now he wants voters to put him back on the job.
“I never planned on getting out of law enforcement,” Navarro said. “I just didn’t like the appointment process. This way, the people will get to make the choice.”
Navarro is challenging Sprungl, a six-year veteran of the department. The race is a bit of a grudge match, but both candidates have avoided personal attacks.
Sprungl is standing on his administrative track record, saying he has kept the Sheriff’s Department budget in check, improved officer training and cracked down on crime.
In the past two months, Sprungl’s department has made arrests in two murder cases and solved a string of burglaries.
Despite the department’s record, Navarro contends Sprungl has alienated the public. Sprungl is not available to residents and officers are not involved with the community, he said.
“We have to win the people’s confidence back. When we lose touch with the people, there is a problem,” Navarro said.
He said he wants to push for more community Block Watch programs and take a tougher stand against the juvenile drug and alcohol problem.
“We have a drug problem, our schools are full of it, and the sheriff has only started addressing it now before the election,” Navarro said.
Sprungl agrees that drug and alcohol use by the county’s youths has become a serious issue. Three teenagers have died in the last year in drug- or alcohol-related incidents.
“The problem is getting worse and it’s going to require a joint effort between law enforcement, the schools, parents and community,” Sprungl said.
The sheriff has set a new policy with the school district to allow for unannounced drug searches at the schools. He also is working with the county substance abuse coalition.