By ROB ALWAY
Mason County Sheriff Jeff Fiers has announced he is going to seek re-election this year, switching parties from Democrat to Republican. The switch in affiliation means Fiers will run against Kim Cole during the Aug. 9 primary rather than the November general election.
At this time Fiers and Cole are the only two candidates for sheriff. Former (and current Pentwater Police Chief) Laude Hatrum has announced he is not running for office and is endorsing Cole, a sergeant with the sheriff’s office.
Fiers has been sheriff since January 2008 and was expected to make his announcement tonight during the Mason County Republican Party’s Lincoln Dinner.
“Many would ask why I am switching party lines,” Fiers said in a statement. “The office of sheriff is a constitutional office…. I take my oath of office seriously. I have seen major encroachment from the federal government on our constitutional rights. I cannot be a party to these encroachments. Our Second Amendment and Tenth Amendment rights have been under attack and we must protect our rights. Our constitutional rights are sacred and we must make a stand to protect them.
“Also I have discovered over the last three years that I lean towards Republican philosophy more than Democratic philosophy. That said, I believe strongly that I must be true to my ideals and all that I hold dear as a responsible citizen and as your sheriff.”
Fiers said many changes have occurred at the sheriff’s office over the last three years. “Some of these changes have not always been popular with the department staff. It must, however, be noted that for the past three years we have come in at or below budget each and every year.
“I have been a good steward of my employers’ resources, using Mason County taxpayers’ money wisely and efficiently. By doing so, we have not had to reduce staff or cut services in these hard economic times. Many departments cannot say that. We have provided quality services within our means.”
Fiers said he reduced the office by one administrative chief deputy, changing the position to the rank of sergeant working in the jail.
“We worked within the union contracts to work through time lines to fill vacation vacancies with the scheduled work days and without having to pay overtime. By managing the budget wisely we have accomplished many things.”
Examples, he said, include equipping all patrol cars with updated mobile radios and adding digital cameras and patrol rifles to patrol cars, among other items.
“In my view, the Mason County Sheriff’s Office and the Mason County Board of Commissioners now have a strong, positive and effective working relationship. Living within our means has also helped other departments of government in Mason County by not having deficit spending.
“I have worked very hard with the citizens of Mason County in forming community watch groups,” he said. “These groups bring citizens and law enforcement together in a common cause and help keep our communities safe. This concept has been introduced to all 15 township boards. Now it is up to the citizens to get involved and assist us in making their communities a safe place to raise their families and live a peaceful life.”