Two more candidates, including the incumbent sheriff, joined the race for the county’s highest law enforcement post as filing for the May primaries continues at the Harnett County Board of Elections.
Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats had a large crowd of deputies around him as he signed up on Wednesday to run for his first full term. The same crowd gave him a standing ovation as he left the building.
He was appointed by county commissioners as sheriff in March of 2016 when then-Sheriff Larry Rollins resigned. Sheriff Coats is a 24-year veteran of the sheriff’s office. He was originally hired by Sheriff Wade Stewart as a deputy and has served in various positions under Sheriffs Lewis Rosser, Larry Knott and Rollins.
His platform is largely based on his years of service.
“My extensive law enforcement experience has given me a resolve to tackle the tough issues and successfully lead a department through critical incidents,” said Sheriff Coats, a Republican. “I will serve you with honesty and integrity through being a responsible steward of your tax dollars. My desire is to serve you and this means listening, first and foremost.”
He wants to keep working to make the county safer.
“As your sheriff, my priority is to continue to safeguard the lives and properties of the citizens of Harnett County. I am committed to enhancing the quality of your life through effective partnerships by way of trust in our communities.”
Another candidate, Jerry Rivas, also a Republican, joined the race later in the day. Mr. Rivas has lived in Harnett County 31 years. He is the former manager at Cunningham Cycle World and has worked as the general manager of a gun shop. He is also a retired truck driver.
He said he is running for office because of concerns about the current administration.
“I’m deeply troubled by the incidents of police brutality the last few years,” Mr. Rivas said. “There have been scandals, cover-ups in our county detention center and continued deaths in our county jail. I feel moved to run for sheriff because I want to make Harnett County a safer place for our citizens. We must also remember that the No. 1 priority of any law enforcement agency is to serve and protect the populace and that includes protecting them from the occasional bad cop.”
Mr. Rivas is a native of Houston, Texas. He is married to Ann Lynette Rivas and has two daughters and 10 grandchildren. He has been a member of Liberty Baptist Church for nearly 30 years.
So far, retired North Carolina Highway Patrol Capt. Harry Ennis is the only Democrat to file for the seat.
Two unaffiliated candidates have filed petitions to get on the ballot.
Gary Duane McGuire, 45, of McDougald Road, Broadway, has filed a petition to get his name on the ballot for sheriff.
Kala Lee Fortin, 34, of Boulder Drive in western Harnett County is attempting to get on the ballot as a candidate for the District 5 seat on the Harnett County School Board. That seat is currently held by Roger Farina.
In order to get on the ballot in the sheriff’s race, a candidate has to get 4 percent of registered voters in the county to sign a petition. Story and photos courtesy The Daily Record