An incumbent seeking a fifth term will have to fight off a political newcomer to retain her job as Fayette County sheriff.
Kathy Witt is being challenged by former military police officer Brian Potters in the Nov. 4 general election.
Witt, a Democrat who became the county's first female sheriff when she was elected in 1998, said she decided to run for a fifth term because Lexington is home and a place that her family is "heavily invested in."
Witt ran unopposed in 1998, but she's had her share of challengers since then. She defeated a former deputy twice, in 2002 and 2006, and in the 2010 primary.
Witt, 54, said she's proud of the work done by her and the staff of about 80. The sheriff's office supports victims of domestic violence, keeps watch on convicted sexual predators, apprehends fugitives, extradites prisoners and collects property taxes. Other duties include protecting the courthouses; collecting and distributing property taxes; and escorting funerals, a task the office accepted from the police department, Witt said.
The office starts each year with a zero budget and is a fee-based organization, accumulating funding through the services it provides.
Witt acknowledged that there are some issues facing the law enforcement agency when it comes to building on relationships with other public safety agencies and performing the duties of the office in a merged government.
"We have to continue to ensure that the office of sheriff continues to be a modern-day sheriff's office that performs its role and its duties very well, and at a high quality service for our community," she said. "We don't want to duplicate services with the Division of Police; they clearly don't want a duplication of services."
Witt's challenger, Potters, 29, a Republican, thinks the office could do more if it had more.
Potters, who was a military police officer with the Marines before moving to Lexington in 2009, has never run for office, but he thinks that might be attractive to voters because he is a new face and has fresh ideas.
After moving to Lexington from Quantico, Va., Potters spent about a year working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He later operated his own company, Colonels Limousine, in Lexington.
Potters said his interest in law enforcement grew out of his six years as a military police officer. Potters said he received extensive training in military and law enforcement techniques and equipment. He understands that his political career is in its infancy, but it's not a negative.
"I've got ... experience most folks my age haven't got," he said. "I've spent the majority of my adult life in law enforcement. I could've run for a legislative position. I could've run for a council position ... those are important, but I didn't see where I could help in those positions. I found a niche in law enforcement being very good at what I do and being very professional at what I do."
Like Witt, Potters thinks the office needs to continue working with the police department. However, Potters, who has been at the scene of shootings and has attended community events, thinks deputies should help patrol Lexington's streets, and the sheriff's office should remain open 24 hours a day. He also suggests that the police department and sheriff's office should operate on the same radio frequency in case backup is needed.
Witt disagrees with Potters when it comes to patrolling. It hasn't been the role of the office to patrol, and it never has since the 1974 city-county merger. The only way that would change under her leadership, she said, was if she was asked to do so.
"Our role is to complement each other's efforts, and it works very, very well here," Witt said.