3 candidates vie for Kent County sheriff

Elections

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Three people, including the current sheriff, a former deputy and a local businessman, want to hold the title of Kent County sheriff.

While the election is still more than a month away, many voters will soon cast absentee ballots. So, here is what you need to know about the three candidates.

With a budget of nearly $68 million in 2020, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for law enforcement, corrections and emergency communications for communities throughout Kent County.

Current Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young, a Republican, was appointed to the position in 2018 after the retirement of Larry Stelma.

An undated photo of courtesy Michelle LaJoye-Young.

LaJoye-Young is a 31-year veteran of the department.

She credits long-range planning for the success of the department as one of the reasons she should be elected.

“The strategic plan really took a big deep look at what we needed to do, where our strengths were already in the department, and what we needed to do to lean forward in the department and to make sure we were being transparent as a department. That we were giving the department the training, the oversight necessary for our law enforcement, our corrections staff, our communications staff to be successful meeting the expectations of the citizens,” LaJoye-Young said.

Among those challenging LaJoye-Young is Marc Burns, a Democrat.

An undated courtesy photo of Marc Burns.

Burns retired from the sheriff’s department after 26 years of service.

Among his reason for running is the way LaJoye-Young came into the office.

It’s become somewhat of a tradition over the last few decades for sheriffs in Kent County to retire during their term, allowing the appointed sheriff to run as an incumbent.

That’s what happened in 2018 when Stelma retired, and LaJoye-Young was appointed.

“You’ve taken the vote away from the people, you’ve taken the voice away from the people. And again, I can’t think of anything more disheartening than to say the people I serve — I am going to make the decision for who is next in that office. I can’t stand for that. And that’s one of the main reasons that I’m running for sheriff,” Burns said

Libertarian candidate John Stedman is taking his fourth run at the sheriff’s office.

An undated courtesy photo of John Stedman.
An undated courtesy photo of John Stedman.

The insurance agency owner, who’s never worked in law enforcement, says the sheriff needs to be more accountable to the community.

“My plan is to put a citizens review board together and bring issues to the selected board. And try to just iron these things out with the community. Start communicating with the community in a better manner,” Stedman said.

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