8 candidates qualify to run for Walker County sheriff
by Rachel Davis
Feb 09, 2014 | 8274 views | 0 0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Eight local men have qualified to run for Walker County Sheriff. Republicans J.C. Poe, Jim Underwood, Steve Miller, Adam Hadder, Allen Estell, Ronnie Raines and Larry Odom will face off in the June 3 primary.

Lone Democrat Mike Cole will face the winner of that race in November’s General Election.

Estell said he has minimal law enforcement experience and realizes he may be the underdog in the race, but he said he can’t sit quietly and watch what has been happening in this county anymore.

The Carbon Hill native said he is tired of the county having a reputation for drugs and violence and, if elected, plans to take an aggressive stand against drugs countywide.

He said he would also like to reinstill a sense of pride in the sheriff’s deputies and use his years of leadership ability from the military and years in the steel mills to lead the department. He currently works at Maloy Ford in Jasper.

“I think my head is in it more than anybody else,” Estell said. “I’m running to improve my county, that’s the only reason I’m running.”

Hadder, a former sheriff’s deputy, was born and raised in Jasper and graduated from Walker High School and Walker College, as well as the University of Alabama Law Enforcement Academy.

Hadder began as a patrol deputy in the Walker County Sheriff’s Office in 1998. He spent 15 years in the department, rising to S.W.A.T. team leader and assistant director of the Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Hadder was fired from the sheriff’s office in 2012. In the statement, Hadder said he was fired because of his attempts to expose corruption in the department.

“I pledge to the citizens of Walker County that as your sheriff, I will do what I have always done in the past and that is to help take criminals off our streets to make our communities safer and stronger,” Hadder said in a written statement. “I will always stand up for what is right, even at great personal cost to myself. You deserve no less in your next sheriff, and I have the battle scars to stand behind my pledge.”

“I have always been a conservative,” Hadder said. “I believe in family values and the rule of law. Right now in Walker County, we have two fights. First, we must re-establish trust and confidence in the office of the sheriff and second, we need a comprehensive plan to address drugs and property crimes in our communities. As the man who exposed the corruption and as the past point man on the Narcotics Unit, I am best suited to address these issues.”

Miller, who is president and CEO of Miller Roofing in Jasper, is a Curry High graduate and attended the Jefferson State Law Enforcement Academy in 1993.

“Back when I was going to the Police Academy, honestly the reason that I was going was to serve the people of the county, but it was also to prepare for the day that I would run,” Miller said in an ad that ran in Sunday’s Eagle. “I knew back then that I wanted to run, and I believe this is the right time for me to serve in this capacity. I believe that we are all here for a reason, and I want to give back. The county has been good to us.”

Miller said if elected, he would serve without pay for the first year. “I will serve my first year as Walker County sheriff without any pay so that pay can be used toward purchasing much-needed equipment for the department personnel,”he said.

Odom is a volunteer firefighter for Saragossa Fire Department as the chief of security for his company, Blue Hornet Security. He said he has 14 years in business management as well as experience working with various police departments and law enforcement agencies.

He believes the job of sheriff needs someone who can balance the department, taking the good things that work and merging them with new ideas to improve the department, as well as working to improve relationships between the office and other area law enforcement agencies.

He also said he has three young children and wants them to be able to ride their bikes and grow up in a safe environment. In order to provide that safety, Odom believes someone needs to be in the office and passionate about the community.

“There needs to be someone in the office who is going to work and be there for the citizens when they need him,” Odom said.

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. Poe retired from the sheriff’s office as chief deputy in 2002 after 25 years of service.

Raines is a Walker County native who currently runs the Jasper Bowling Center. He is the Beat 7 Constable and has a degree in criminal justice and history from Troy University.

He said he believes the county is on the verge of growing economically, but needs a strong law enforcement presence for that to happen.

“I’m not sure our same old politics as usual is going to do it,” Raines said. “There has been too much politics and not enough enforcement. We need to try something a little different from what we’ve been doing.”

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.

“I feel that I am the most experienced candidate,” Underwood said. “I have 40 years of experience. I’ve managed a law enforcement agency for the federal government for 16 years, which included 62 counties.”

Underwood said he believed the sheriff’s office had a good group of core employees and he plans to give them direction, set goals and get the department’s finances in order so the sheriff’s office can provide the necessary duties for the citizens of the county.

Underwood and his wife, Linda, have been married 47 years and have two children and two grandchildren who live in other states.

He is also a member of New Prospect Baptist Church.

Most recently, Underwood has served as an investigator for the Walker County District Attorney’s Office. He currently has been there part-time for about a year and was previously employed there full-time for eight years.

“I feel that I’m the right person, at the right time, for the right reason,” Underwood said.

As the only Democrat, Cole believes he brings a different perspective to the table, with 37 years of law enforcement experience.

Cole started his career with the Jasper Police Department in 1975 and retired from the Walker County Sheriff’s Office in 2001.

Since then, he has spent more than three years overseas training international police officers for the U.S. State Department. He is also a sergeant with the Samford University Police Department.

He said his experience overseas gave him a new perspective on law enforcement administration, and experience with short- and long-term goals, contracts and other administrative responsibilities.

“I believe we’ve tried a lot of things,” Cole said. “The challenge is to come up with new ways to do things.”