2018 Midterm Elections

Three candidates run for Macon sheriff

Left to right: Eric Giles, Bryan Carpenter and Robert Holland. Left to right: Eric Giles, Bryan Carpenter and Robert Holland.

Talk briefly about your past experience and why you are the most qualified candidate.

Carpenter: During the three years I’ve been with Graham County, I’ve earned a certification in emergency management and crime scene investigations. I became a K9 handler with my dog Boaz and we’ve been effective in countless drug seizures. As a team we’re certified through the USPCA (U.S. Police Canine Association) for narcotics detection. During the last three years I’ve also gained other certificates and certifications in the law enforcement field. Being sheriff is something I feel led to do and I feel like I can make a positive difference in the community.  

Giles: I worked as a detention officer and transport supervisor for Macon County Sheriff, I took a patrol position at Graham County and then moved to Clay County — they pay better so I spent three years there. I decided to run for sheriff so I went in and talked to my captain and advised him of the same and that I was probably going to be leaving. Then Cherokee County came calling — I went down and seen the sheriff and he offered me a job and I’ve been there ever since — been there since December. I grew up in Macon County — my family is 10th generation Maconian. I’ve seen some troubling things since I moved home seven years ago. I’ve seen a lot of people I went to school with are addicted to drugs now. We need something different — we’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem.

Holland : For the last 16 years I’ve had the distinct honor of serving as the Macon County sheriff. Over the last 16 years I’ve had the opportunity to build relationships with many different individuals and I’ve been involved with many different organizations. We’ve built a sheriff’s office that we like to call a proactive sheriff’s office and I’m very proud of the men and women who serve at our office. 

The Macon County jail is overcrowded as the region battles the opioid epidemic — what are you doing or what will you do to address these issues with limited financial resources? 

Carpenter : The opioid epidemic is a problem, but I see it being more controlled by the doctors who control the prescriptions going out and how much quantity is going out. Based upon that, I would possibly have an investigator solely looking into doctor shopping. As far as on the streets, opioids will be treated as any other narcotic with people being cited or possibly arrested for it. I’m all for any kind of in-jail rehabilitation — any kinds of programs that will point them toward Christ or any kind of thing like that. I’m all for any schooling programs for inmates to learn a trade of some sort. That’s a win-win situation. 

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Giles : Narcanon is one program that offers age specific programs. Full Circle on Georgia Road does great work, Rock Bottom Recovery in Hayesville has done amazing things with Macon County’s inmates. I’d continue the Second Chance (Prime for Life) program but it’s only for people who’ve been in jail over 90 days — we need something from day 1. One thing I’ve started researching is drug court. Buncombe County has it and I’ve talked to friends over there and they seem to like it. With drug court they do different things like sentencing someone to rehab — you go to rehab or you go to jail. I know there would be challenges with it but it’s something we should look into. 

Holland : Especially over the last few years we’ve seen our jail population increasing — that’s a direct result of the opioid epidemic that we’re seeing nationwide. We’re never going to arrest our way out of the opioid problem and we recognize that but we have a responsibility to keep our community safe. So these individuals that are out trying to fulfill their addiction — many times they’re committing offenses — we have to hold them accountable. A lot of them are good people who have made bad decisions involving their addiction so they start reaching out and wanting help. We started the Reality Check program taking inmates to the school system in their orange outfits and they explain to the students where their bad choices and addiction has gotten them. We’ve seen our mental health system struggle. We started a program in jail called Prime for Life — it gives these inmates who’ve recognized they have a problem someone to talk to in the mental health system who understands what they’re going through.  

Is sending inmate overflow to other counties a sustainable practice? Do we need to construct a new jail or work to decrease the number of people in jail?

Carpenter : If a person is sentenced to jail we can’t affect that so we must adapt to other areas. My opinion is it’s a good practice for a little while but when you have 10 inmates let’s say at roughly $30 a day for each inmate, that’s $300 a day and over a year’s time that’s over $100,000. It would be better to go ahead and expand the jail instead of sending taxpayers’ money out of the county.

Giles : We’ve got to do something with it. I’m not really a big advocate of building bigger jails to put more people in jail but with the ones going to jail we don’t have enough room for them so we have to do something. And this jail is outdated — even several years ago when I was there, there were places falling apart. 

Holland : In a 75-bed facility, we average about 100 inmates a day and so we have to make sure that those inmates are being cared for in other counties. Macon County spends a lot of money in Cherokee, Clay, Jackson, Swain and here recently we even had to reach out to Charlotte-Mecklenburg to look at the possibility of housing our prisoners and having to transport those prisoners. Is our county looking at building a new jail — absolutely, I think that’s in the future, but I feel like we have to look at some other ways that we can reduce the number of people in our jail and save some money. One of the ways we’re looking at is the possibility of electronic monitoring and being able to select certain inmates on low-level charges to be on house arrest and electronic monitoring.  

People in the Nantahala community feel like they aren’t getting adequate services from the sheriff’s office. How do you plan to address those concerns?

Carpenter : I feel like they do need adequate enforcement and need someone over there all the time. There’s two avenues — you can go ahead and request from the commissioners another position to place one over there or simply go ahead and place one over there. It would cut response time in half, it would help the community over there. I’ve talked to some people about possibly doing a multi-county task force through the area because it’s not patrolled as much.   

Giles : Of course I would love to have more deputies, but at this point I see no reason why we can’t have zones. It works in every county around us. I don’t see putting one officer over there and he’s just going to stay there forever — I think you rotate them out so they all get familiar with all the roads over there. 

Holland : The Nantahala community is definitely a community that needs some services addressed. We’ve tried every way we can think of within our current sheriff’s budget and it’s been a difficult task. There’s about 16,000 calls a year we have to respond to — about 200 are in Nantahala. We know if you live in Nantahala and it’s your call, it’s the most important call of the day and we recognize that. We’ve had a lot of meetings with the community this year and they recognize the way to get it done is to come before commissioners during the budget talks. I have a feeling next spring we’ll get a very diff outcome. The problem with zoning is we have 529 square miles to cover and we only have so many officers.

Many people in Macon County have expressed their distrust in law enforcement because of local and national events. How would you work to restore trust in the community and ensure the sheriff’s staff is held accountable?

Carpenter : Nobody is above the law. As far as restoring trust in the community, I’m a big believer in community policing — getting out there, interacting with the community, being involved. I would support doing community watch programs and sending officers to those meetings and getting feedback from the community. 

Giles : I’m a firm believer that we’re not above the law. I have to face my mistakes just like everybody else does — so would my officers. Reports are public records. We’re going to do our reporting constantly. I’m going to have an open door policy. 

Holland : To be honest with you, I think there is a huge support system in our county. I don’t think there’s a large number of people who distrust us. Based on what’s going on in the nation I understand red flags are up and people are concerned but that’s one of the things I’m most proud about in our agency. We’ve gone out of our way to be very transparent with the public and the media. When we have a situation where god forbid an officer is accused of serious wrongdoing we get other agencies involved to conduct an investigation and we play no role in the investigation. 

What accomplishments are you most proud of from the last term or for challengers, what improvements would you make to the department and/or the jail?

Carpenter : One of the ways that will prevent the flow of drugs into this county will be to install a license plate reader on U.S 441 and into select patrol vehicles. They can be stationary or on the back of a car and can read 500 tags an hour so it gives officers feedback on the driver — whether their license is good, etc. — it can be helpful in so many traffic stops, amber alerts or missing people — and it would open up the doors for more drug stops. I’ve been researching it a lot. In Florida counties, it’s helped out a lot with missing people and drugs. I think it would pay for itself quickly. 

Giles : I want to see more community policing. I want to be out in the community — I don’t plan to be at the office much. Everyone talks about how we’re short handed — why can’t I take a call and back up my officers? Another thing I plan to do a little different than other places around here is the hiring process. I want a hiring review board to review applications so everybody is treated equally.  

Holland : I’m proud of the specialized training in our agency. We have certified instructors and now have a training coordinator to do in-house training, which saves us a lot of money. We were spending thousands in overtime to attend Southwestern Community College classes, which is a great school but it was costing a lot of money. About 40 hours a year of training is required for officers but we exceed those minimum standards. I’m also very proud that while many counties are now looking for ways to find school resource officer funding, we’ve pushed for that the entire time I’ve been sheriff and we have an officer at every school in the community including SCC and the early college.

Macon County Sheriff’s Office recently received a $65,000 grant for new camera technology — what’s your stance in body cams or dash cams for officers?

Carpenter : I have no problem being transparent by having video or body cams. I am pro body cams because it protects the public and the officer. 

Giles : I prefer body cams — dash cams are really good for DUI cases or chases, but body cams are up close and personal. We had body cams in Clay County — you could take the cam off your shirt and hold it up and get everything. It’s right on your pocket and they were great. 

Holland: Body cams are easier because of the cost, but we still haven’t made a decision on what to go with. In a meeting last week with the whole department, all of them want in car or body cam. They’re all supportive because there’s nothing to hide — it’s there to protect them and the citizens. But we have to have policies and protocols in place before we begin using them. And $65,000 may seem like a lot but it wouldn’t fund a camera for all my officers. Then we have to worry about having the footage backed up somewhere offsite for security purposes. 


Meet the candidates

Robert Holland (Republican)

  • Age: 51
  • Hometown: Born in Naples, Florida, but his family has been in Macon County since the 1600s. He moved back to Franklin after he graduated high school. 
  • Education: Attended Southwestern Community College but didn’t graduate. Took numerous classes and earned his advanced law enforcement certificate through the N.C. Justice Academy.
  • Professional background: Worked with the Macon County Sheriff’s Office for 27 years — first as a volunteer, then as a detention officer, a patrol officer and eventually a detective and supervised the juvenile unit. 
  • Political experience: Seeking fifth term as Macon County sheriff.

Bryan Carpenter (Unaffiliated)

  • Age: 34
  • Hometown: Born in Georgia but raised in Macon County. 
  • Education: Graduated Franklin High School; completed Basic Law Enforcement Training at Haywood Community College and earned an associate degree in criminal justice. 
  • Professional experience: Road deputy with Graham County Sheriff’s Office for three years. 
  • Political experience: He ran for sheriff in 2014.

Eric Giles (Democrat)

  • Age: 42
  • Hometown: Franklin
  • Education: Completed Basic Law Enforcement Training at Haywood Community College in 2010; received law enforcement certificates offered online through the N.C. Justice Academy. 
  • Professional experience: Currently works for Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office; previously worked with Macon County Sheriff, Graham County Sheriff and Clay County Sheriff.  
  • Political experience: First time running for office.

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