In the six weeks since the primary election, both candidates have focused on getting in front of as many people as possible, knocking on doors, attending events and speaking to groups in the community. Both men agree that the sheriff’s office needs a massive overhaul to get the department back on track. Both men agree that drugs are a major issue facing the county, and are the root of many other issues, including many property and violent crimes.
The similarities between the two candidates end there.
Poe’s law enforcement experience has been garnered in Walker County, including 25 years in the Walker County Sheriff’s Office, before retiring 12 years ago.
Poe believes that his years as chief deputy qualify him to know how the department should be run, as well as giving him experience with the local issues faced by the sheriff’s department, but more than a decade away from the department gives him distance to see the issues within the department currently.
He believes the sheriff needs to be experienced in managing people and finances, as well as overseeing investigations into drug, property and violent crimes, which he did as deputy sheriff.
He also believes lasting changes in the department will require someone willing to be there “‘round the clock” for not just the next four years, but the next several terms.
Poe, who currently serves as Walker County coroner, graduated from Curry High School, attended Walker College and Bevill State Community College and graduated from the University of Alabama Police Academy in 1978. He spent seven years with the Jasper Police Department before being hired as an investigator with the Walker County Sheriff ’s Office in 1983.
After eight years as an investigator, he became the director of the Walker County Narcotic’s Enforcement Team for four years in the early 1990s. In 1995, Poe was appointed as chief deputy for the sheriff’s office, where he served until retiring in 2002. Poe retired from the sheriff’s office as chief deputy in 2002 after 25 years of service.
“All my adult life, I have served the people of Walker County,” Poe said. “I hope voters will remember my experience and service, as well as looking into the resumes and duties of each candidate and choosing the person they believe is most qualified to serve them.”
Underwood served in the federal system as a U.S. Marshal and believes one of his greatest strengths is that he has never worked in the sheriff’s office in Walker County and has no ties. He has worked to manage people and balance a budget and believes those skills, as well as his training, will give him the insight to repair the weaknesses in the department.
“My not ever working at the sheriff’s office, I can be, certainly, more objective about what needs to be done down there to get the sheriff’s department back on its feet again,” Underwood said.
He also believes his experience managing money and people would be an asset to the sheriff’s office. He would also like to look at the option of housing up to 10 federal inmates at the Walker County Jail, which he said had the potential to generate up to $500 a day in revenue for the jail and department.
“You’ve got to assess everything at the sheriff’s department once you go in to see exactly what you’ve got and see what needs to be reorganized,” Underwood said. “You’ve got to spend what finances you have and put them where they’ll do the most good, because it appears there is limited funding for the jail and the sheriff’s department so you’ve got to make sure that funding is used to protect lives and protect property and controlling crime in the county and be responsible to the citizens ...”
Underwood retired as a U.S. Marshal after 31 years and has 40 years total in law enforcement.
He is a Walker County native who graduated from Walker High School and Walker College before getting a degree in police administration from Eastern Kentucky University.
He said he also graduated top in his class from the FBI Academy in budget and management of law enforcement.
Most recently, Underwood has served as an investigator for the Walker County District Attorney’s Office.
The winner of the Republican nomination will face Democrat Mike Cole in the general election on Nov. 4.