ANDERSON — The three Democratic candidates for Madison County sheriff each have the same party insignia next to their name. That’s about where the similarities end.
Maj. Brian Bell, County Commissioner Jeff Hardin and former Sheriff Scott Mellinger each present a unique vision of what the office would look like if they were in charge. From goals and expectations to implementation, their ideas are as different as their experience. Though all have been police officers, they’re entering the political arena through different doors.
Bell represents an heir-apparent to current Sheriff Ron Richardson, who will be retiring after two terms when his tenure expires in December. He has served as major, the No. 2 position at the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, under Richardson for seven years. Before that, Bell held multiple ranks at the Sheriff’s Department, including Swat Team commander. He said the important aspect of his career is that, before being dubbed major, he earned each of his positions by merit, not political appointment.
Additionally, Bell has the benefit of being the only candidate currently working at the department. He said his current and first-hand experience in the county has put him in tune with the needs and wants of the citizens. Bell also said he thinks his position as executive officer in the county has prepared him to take the next step.
“There’s a lot of experience gained by being the No. 2 guy. You gain a huge advantage in knowledge being right there,” Bell said. “I always have Ron to fall back on for guidance, but it’s a position I feel very comfortable with.”
The two issues at the top of Bell’s platform are the completion of consolidation of the county dispatch center and tackling the crippling drug problem facing the county. The current dispatch center, which is about 18 years old, is a mess, according to Bell, who is in charge of the dispatch center. He said the solutions for clearing up communication problems within the county lie with consolidation into one center, a new radio system and creation of a dispatch board, which will feature a representative from each agency in the county.