Interview with Matt Mefford, Independent Candidate for Shelby County Sheriff

by Benjamin Nelson

SHELBY COUNTY, MO -- Shelby County voters will be headed to the ballot box on August 4th for the August Primary to decide who will be the candidate of each party for Shelby County Sheriff. Then in November for the General Election, voters will cast the final vote for their county's top law enforcement officer. After Cole Hinshaw dropped out of the race, there are a total of five candidates running for Shelby County Sheriff. There is one Democratic Candidate (Chris Ehrenreich), one Independent Candidate (Matt Mefford), and three Republican Candidates (Brad Wilt, Arron Fredrickson, and Raymond Barton). The winner in August for the Republican nomination will face Ehrenreich and Mefford in the General Election later this November. The Home Press spoke with each candidate regarding their bid for Sheriff.

QUESTION #1: Tell me about yourself (bio, where you grew up, college, work experience, role model, etc.)

ANSWER: My wife Tara and I, along with our three daughters, live in Clarence, MO where we own and operate a small cattle farm. I graduated from South Shelby High School in 1999, my immediate education continued in the MACC Law Enforcement Academy. Upon graduation from the academy in May of 2000 Shelby County Sheriff, Art Cullifer hired me. I began as a jailer and dispatcher until reaching the age of 21. When I turned 21 I was eligible to receive my full commission as a Deputy. Most recently, it has been a privilege to serve as the School Resource Officer for both North Shelby & South Shelby School Districts. Being the School Resource Officer has been a key highlight of my Law Enforcement journey.

QUESTION #2: Why are you running for sheriff?

ANSWER: As a young man, serving others was something I was always drawn to do. When I turned 18, I became a volunteer firefighter and confirmed that being a part of the “helpers” in a community is where I wanted to be. When I turned 20 I was fortunate enough to start my career with Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and continue to serve and protect. I have had the benefit of serving under 3 different Sheriffs during my tenure and I am able to take the skills learned from each and incorporate them into the best Sheriff for Shelby County. As Sheriff, I will continue to fulfill my desire to serve all citizens of Shelby County. In all, I want to run for sheriff because I care about our community and want to do my part in making it a better, safer place.

QUESTION #3: If you could improve one thing within the department, what would it be and why?

ANSWER: I have a plan to improve several areas of operations within the office, but the most pressing improvement will be communication/transparency and agency collaboration. Increasing communication, transparency & collaboration will allow us to focus on other areas of greater importance. I am confident in my ability to improve these areas through open communication and coordination with all agencies that impact Shelby County. I will actively participate in Sheriff Zone meetings, work to establish a consistent meeting with local agencies/department heads to share information, discuss issues and create a plan to work together to better serve all citizens in Shelby County. I will continue to actively be involved in the community, maintain professionalism and operate with the highest level of integrity.

QUESTION #4: What is something that has given you the experience to be sheriff?

ANSWER: Not only have I been a part of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office for the past 20 years, I also serve as the Elected Board of Director for the Missouri Red Angus Association and Fund-Raising Advisor for the MO Junior Red Angus board. Locally, I am a Board Member for the Clarence Rural Fire Department and the Clarence Baseball Association. Each of these positions has given me additional experience and responsibility with budgeting, communicating effectively and have developed my leadership skills.

QUESTION #5: In your mind, what is the most important thing about being sheriff?

ANSWER: The most important aspect of being sheriff is to lead with integrity. I will strive to create a culture within the Sheriff’s Office that embraces honest and dedicated deputies and staff that work together for the betterment of our community.

QUESTION #6: What is the most pressing issue facing the department and how do you intend on dealing with it?

ANSWER: Retaining quality staff and ensuring they have reliable equipment to keep them safe.

Retaining dedicated and talented deputies, dispatchers and jailers will ensure the highest quality of coverage for Shelby County and ultimately reduce the cost of continually retraining for these positions. We continue to face the same financial challenges as other small counties do in terms of salary and benefits. Thankfully, we received the “Deputies Sheriffs Supplementary Salary fund” grant and were able to increase the starting deputy’s salary from $22,000 to $30,000 with no additional burden on the taxpayers

Our dispatchers/jailers have not received the same type of a monetary supplement. Each of these positions are 24 hours, require certification and specialized training and are very stressful positions. These positions must handle phone calls, jail responsibilities, the radio/computer systems, 911 calls and give pre-arrival assistance in a professional manner and do so for near minimum wage.

The second pressing issue is outdated equipment. Not having the proper equipment will add stress to an employee regarding their safety, efficiency in handling situations and overall productivity. I want to implement Deputy body cameras and portable radios. Cameras are used as evidence, but most importantly, they will provide security and peace of mind for the deputies and citizens during calls.

One other piece of equipment would be updating the deputy’s portable radios. Currently, when a deputy leaves his car radio he is left with no communication due to the outdated portables being used. Officer safety is my first concern and working both sides of the radio (as deputy and dispatcher) lack of communication can create chaos.

I intend to deal with these issues by continually looking for ways to improve the work environment so that employees look forward to serving our great county making it not only about the pay but a place they can feel honored for what they provide. Continuously reviewing the Sheriff’s Office budget, being a good steward of funds by looking for ways to make improvements and cut any unnecessary costs. I will also look for grants, other available funding and partner with the state to purchase surplus items. I will also work closely with other Sheriffs in the State of Missouri to ensure I am leveraging all of my resources.

QUESTION #7: What do you foresee as being the most challenging aspect of being sheriff of Shelby County?

ANSWER: Ensuring I am leading my office in a way that keeps my officers, staff and citizens as safe as possible with the resources we have available.

QUESTION #8: How can you work more collaboratively with other law enforcement agencies within the area (city police, highway patrol, etc.)?

ANSWER: I believe communication and coordination with all agencies and officers in a collaborative effort plays a vital role in how effectively we can succeed in all public safety. There are times when agencies do not agree on matters and/or approaches. Agencies must work past differences to effectively serve the community by discussing and solving issues in their best effort to support each other.

If elected, I plan to schedule regular meetings with department heads and support staff of all local agencies (not just law enforcement) to share information, discuss and collaborate on issues that arise. I feel this will improve the team effort in providing the best of public safety possible for the community. I will also collaborate with other Sheriffs at the monthly Zone meetings and attend Sheriff’s Conferences to help build an even more collaborative effort.

QUESTION #9: If elected, what is your biggest expectation for those below you (deputies, dispatch, etc.)?

ANSWER: Treat each other, and those you interact with, in a profession manner. Always make decisions that are fact based and align with the law. Lead with compassion, integrity and a heart to serve others. Complete duties in a timely manner and never hesitate to call me.

QUESTION #10: How can you bring unity throughout the county as an elected official?

ANSWER: As Sheriff, I will continue to build positive relationships internally and externally. I will practice open communication and ensure all citizens are kept informed of important happenings in our county. Under my leadership, the Sheriff’s Office will be involved in community events and activities and conduct ourselves in a way that encourages the public to engage with us. I will also continue to build positive relationships with other elected officials in the courthouse, the school districts, city government and business owners throughout the county.

QUESTION #11: With law enforcement under a spotlight through the nation right now, how can you ensure citizens both inside and outside of the county that under your leadership, you are holding yourself and your deputies to the highest standards of service and trust?

ANSWER: As Sheriff, I will continue to work alongside of each deputy on emergency calls throughout the month. I will also ensure our office is up to date on new and changing laws, policies and new standards. And, implementing new equipment will also protect each officer and citizens and ensure we are conducting ourselves in a manner that builds trust.

QUESTION #12: Why should the public trust (vote for) you as the chief law enforcement officer within the county?

ANSWER: I have always been hardworking and committed to anything I take on. I live my life on the values of loyalty, honesty and integrity. I respect and value agriculture, small businesses and the 2nd Amendment. Our children are the future of our county and I will continue to build a strong relationship to ensure our future is better than our past. And finally, the role of Law Enforcement is to ensure laws are upheld and I will do so in a professional and consistent manner.

QUESTION #13: What sets you apart from others?

ANSWER: I have been dedicated to Shelby County Citizens for 20+ years in a variety of roles. I have a strong commitment and dedication to the citizens. And, I encourage each of you to ask about me when you talk to others in the courthouse, the school administration, teachers and staff, your kids and grandkids.

QUESTION #14: What is your current job? If you ARE NOT elected, do you plan on staying at your current job/post?

ANSWER: Most recently, it has been a privilege to serve as the School Resource Officer for both North Shelby & South Shelby School Districts. I enjoy interacting with the Administration, staff and parents, but the biggest reward is my direct involvement with all the students and seeing their progress. I plan to continue as a deputy and SRO for the schools.

QUESTION #15: Feel free to include a closing statement about your candidacy for Shelby County Sheriff.

ANSWER: The office of Sheriff is no small task and all new positions come with things to learn. If elected Sheriff I will continually strive to be better for my Office and the citizens of Shelby County. My family and I appreciate your support during this campaign and look forward to your vote on November 3rd for Sheriff of Shelby County. Matthew Mefford Independent candidate for Shelby County Sheriff

Headline picture of Matt Mefford (back left) alongside his family.