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story.lead_photo.caption Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder

FAYETTEVILLE -- Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder announced he is seeking his eighth term in office.

"It might sound hokey, but law enforcement is my calling," Helder said Monday.

Helder, a Democrat, was elected sheriff in 2004 and is serving his seventh two-year term. If re-elected, a change in state law means he will serve a four-year term.

The sheriff oversees about 313 full-time employees and the detention center, which is built to hold a maximum of 710 detainees. Helder oversees budgets of about $24 million.

Helder earns $125,176, which is based on his length of service, a county ordinance and a state-set pay range.

Helder, 59, has been in law enforcement nearly 40 years. He was hired as a dispatcher in the Sheriff's Office in 1979 and later became a deputy. He went to work in the Fayetteville Police Department in 1982, stayed for 21 years and retired as deputy chief.

He returned to the Sheriff's Office as chief deputy in 2003.

In the next four years, Helder wants to start a public dialogue on how to handle an increase in inmate population should Springdale close its city-run jail. Sheriff's Office officials said previously the department does not have the manpower or the facility layout to add detainees.

The city jail has 12 beds and averages eight inmates at any given time, police said previously.

As cities continue to switch to different radio systems, the Sheriff's Office has found itself more isolated from nearby law enforcement, Helder said. He wants to find a system that connects better with ones used by the cities.

Helder said he plans to continue to provide deputies with training, despite a tight county budget. Training gives employees a better opportunity to succeed and makes the department more professional, he said.

"One of the first things to go, sadly, when budget cuts start happening is training," Helder said. "My commitment, when I came back (to the Sheriff's Office,) was to never cut training."

Helder graduated from West Fork High School in 1976 and lives in West Fork with his wife, Holly. he has three grown children. He is an active member of the Fellowship Fayetteville.

He was appointed to the governor's Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force and recently to the Arkansas State Crime Lab Board. He is a past president of the Arkansas Sheriff's Association and is a Washington Regional Hospital Board of Directors board member.

He also is a member of the Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force and serves on its Board of Directors, which includes the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and the city of Memphis. The group's mission is to reduce illicit drug availability by supporting intelligence-driven task forces, according to its website.

Helder said his goal is to fill the Sheriff's Office with quality people who can continue what he started.

"I feel like we've made great strides in peer respect and our service to the community," Helder said. "My ultimate desire is to try to identify more people who can take over when I'm gone. I want my legacy to continue -- I don't want it to end the day I walk out the door."

No other candidates have announced plans to run against Helder, who ran unopposed in 2016.

The candidate filing period is from noon Feb. 22 to noon March 1. The primary election is May 22.

NW News on 01/24/2018

Print Headline: Sheriff announces re-election bid

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