As filing officially got underway for this year's local elections this week, four are currenly in the running for election as Henderson County top law enforcement officer.

Three of four candidates for Henderson County sheriff filed their candidacy notices Monday and paid $975 apiece in filing fees.

Sheriff Charlie McDonald and current N.C. Trooper Michael Brown filed as Republicans. They’ll join Fletcher Police Chief Erik Summey, who also intends to run in May’s Republican primary for sheriff. Also filing Monday for sheriff was Democrat Marty Katz.

Robert Sieber, a former Henderson County deputy now working as a detective in Polk County, withdrew from the sheriff’s race Friday.

McDonald said when he was appointed by the Republican Party in 2012, he inherited “turmoil and chaos” resulting from a “failure of leadership and accountability in the past.”

He said he’s proud of the progress made in two years, emphasizing his office’s leadership training, improved accountability and efficient use of manpower. The sheriff said property crimes and breaking and enterings have dropped “easily 18 percent” in the last year, exceeding a 12 percent promise.

Brown said he’d reallocate personnel to put more deputies on patrol, make property and drug crimes a higher priority, and return school resource officers to the county’s middle schools. He also pledged to “shelter employees from demotion or termination without due process.”

It sounds good to talk about putting more deputies on the street and in schools, McDonald said, but “to put that number of officers in schools that some folks would like to have would be about a million-and-a-quarter dollars right off the bat.”

Under his Adopt-A-School program, on-duty officers are assigned to schools and expected to “drop in, walk the halls, talk to teachers,” McDonald said. While school safety is a major concern, he added, “there are a lot of people who have other concerns as well” and limited resources must be allocated wisely.

If elected, Brown said he’d “look at filling critical positions before we do promotions into administrative positions.” He said McDonald has several officers in a professional standards unit “that offers no direct benefit to the public, such as a patrol officer (would), when they’re short-handed.”

McDonald said the unit helps track and train officers so they’re “better rounded” and “better suited” to transfer laterally or promote. When he took his post, he said “we were very short on a lot of standards and regulations,” which the unit has remedied.

“The problem is, if you have issues in any department or organization, if you don’t fix the things that are wrong, it doesn’t matter how many resources you throw at the problem,” he said. “If you don’t take care of the engine, the rest of the car doesn’t matter.”

Katz has 34 years of experience in law enforcement ranging from a small town in New Jersey to the county’s largest, fully accredited sheriff’s office in Florida.

He looks forward to discussing with citizens how the sheriff’s office can become more efficient and effective. The self-described “lifelong Democrat” has served as a patrolman, detective, SWAT team member, undercover narcotics officer and division supervisor, as well as in other roles