By Joe Beck
Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter said Friday he will keep his focus on law enforcement as Strasburg Police Chief Timothy Sutherly considers a challenge to Carter in next year's sheriff's race.
Sutherly served notice Thursday he is edging toward declaring his candidacy in comments delivered during and after a closed session of the Strasburg Town Council.
"I would call it an announcement," Carter said of Sutherly's remarks. "It's obvious he has political ambitions. I don't mean that to be critical. It's just obvious by reading the announcement that's what it is.
"The election is more than a year and a half away. I believe the Sheriff's Office staff and I work hard for the people of Shenandoah County, and I can't allow political distractions to be distraction from the services we provide."
Sutherly combined criticism of Carter with his remarks about an exploratory committee he has formed as a preliminary step to running for sheriff. Sutherly said Carter is making a greater effort to build cases against out of state offenders involved in the untaxed cigarette trade than concentrating on the epidemic of drug use in local communities.
Sutherly said Carter has assigned up to six members of the Sheriff's Office to sell cigarettes undercover to "criminals from New York and New Jersey" while only two have been assigned to the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force.
Asked about Sutherly's criticism, Carter replied: "People expect me to do my business. They expect me to do my job. I believe we do a good job for the people of Shenandoah County. I should say we are not going to allow his announcement to affect the harmony between the Sheriff's Office staff and the town of Strasburg police."
Carter, who was first elected sheriff in 2003, reacted cautiously when asked whether he would run for re-election next year.
"Certainly, I think about those things, but it is a year and a half away," Carter said in an email message. "I think the time for me discuss that publicly will be when election year arrives."
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or email@example.com