Sheriff Elect Darby

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 11, 2011

Sheriff-elect says drug crackdown coming

By Billy Davis

Sheriff-elect Dennis Darby says he will lead a crackdown on illegal drugs as sheriff next year, as well as ensure Panola Countians get “good service” when they need a sheriff’s deputy.

“We have a major problem with burglaries which of course are related to drugs,” Darby said days after winning the sheriff’s election. “We’ve got to get the crime rate down.”

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Darby squeaked past Sheriff Otis Griffin with a 135-vote win to wrestle the sheriff’s office from the incumbent according to unofficial election returns.

Returns showed 13,658 voters cast a ballot in the General Election, a turnout of 58 percent.
Darby, 55, will inherit the largest department in Panola County government — approximately 78 full- and part-time employees and a current budget of approximately $4.8 million.

The sheriff-elect mentioned a drug crackdown to a Memphis TV news station Wednesday morning, also saying he planned to pursue drug interdiction on Interstate 55.

Darby, a retired state trooper, has performed drug interdiction for the Mississippi Highway Patrol in the past.  

Reorganizing the department, which currently is without a chief deputy, will also be among his first priorities next January, Darby said.

Also lurking in the background is a tight county budget that allowed little new spending in the current fiscal year. Darby has said he will address spending in the sheriff’s department budget if elected.

In the sheriff’s race, Panolians cast 12,261 ballots at 24 precincts on Election Day. A total of 1,281 absentee ballots — 695 for Darby, 586 for Griffin — were accepted and election commissioners approved 32 affidavit ballots Wednesday morning. Seventeen affidavits went to Darby, 15 to Griffin.

Including absentees and affidavits, Darby defeated Griffin 6,852-6,717, edging past the sheriff with 50 percent of the vote compared to 49 percent for Griffin.

The face-off on Tuesday’s ballot was the second time in two years Griffin and Darby have competed for Panola votes. In a special election a year ago, Griffin placed first among a pool of sheriff’s candidates, winning over second-place Darby by 174 votes. Griffin then pulled ahead in the runoff, finishing with a 514-vote lead over Darby.

The Panolian reported last November that 12,519 votes were cast in the Griffin-Darby runoff, meaning 650 more Panolians cast a ballot for sheriff in 2011 than a year ago.

After running last year for the first time, Darby said he was now better prepared to delegate responsibilities to campaign volunteers and also depended more on those volunteers to help.

“Last time I spent too much time doing everything myself,” Darby said. “This time I focused on going door to door and speaking one-on-one with people.”    

Sheriff Griffin could not be reached for comment for this story Thursday morning.