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WyCo Sheriff Ash challenged in General Election by deputy

Incumbent Sheriff Don Ash is being challenged for his title of Sheriff by Deputy Celisha Towers, who has worked in the department since 2012. When voters visit the election polls on Tuesday, November 7, will they re-elect Sheriff Ash based on his experience in law enforcement or will they decide they want a younger woman with fresh ideas to oversee the jail and deputies.

Sheriff Don Ash has served Wyandotte County as Sheriff for the past eight and a half years, but his career in law enforcement has spanned over 45 years.

It is his hope that he will be re-elected to office in the November 7 General election by the citizens of Wyandotte County. According to Ash, he still has unfinished business from his plan eight and a half years ago to transform the Sheriff’s office into a professional, highly efficient law enforcement agency.

According to Sheriff Ash, “Things to finish include building and opening a new Youth Services and Detention Facility, continue transforming the culture of the agency through innovative and contemporary best practices in law enforcement and corrections; upgrading and implementing new technology applications to enhance operations; and continue personal and professional development of staff through training, mentoring and coaching.”

Under his guidance, he feels that the Sheriff’s office has evolved and grown.

“One of the most notable evolutions is that the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s office is largely accepted and embraced by local, state, and federal law enforcement partners in our area, where as before it was largely ignored and excluded,” he said.

Over the years, the Sheriff’s office has changed the way they communicate with the public and others.

“We are engaged in efforts to utilize social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube more extensively and effectively. We will be looking for other social media platforms to enlarge our social media presence and communication. We are also at the ready to visit in person with any stakeholder group that would like to have us engage,” said Sheriff Ash.

Sheriff Ash is not ready to hang up his badge just yet. His law enforcement career has spanned over four decades and every day he looks forward to serving his community.
“The work is challenging, but at the same time stimulating and energizing for me. I love people and I enjoy working collaboratively with them to solve problems, improve policies, procedures, and processes, and to generally improve the overall quality of community life for those that live, work, and play in Wyandotte County. My family and I live here too and we want it to be the best community it can possibly be,” he said.

Hispanic News asked how the sheriff’s department and the community can work together to help young people in the community lead better lives and Sheriff Ash replied was “young people first.”

“The new Youth Services Center will give us a great opportunity to work with youth and their families that have come into contact with the criminal justice system as teens. The goal would be to turn them away from crime and toward productive pro-social activities and skills that keep them out of court and jail,” said Ash.

Over the last several years, local and state government have recognized that individuals are in jail systems suffering with mental illness and should instead be in a treatment center.

“We have done a significant amount of work in this area over the last eight and a half years working with our law enforcement and mental health provider partners, as well as the court system. We are now diverting a good number of people away from the courts and into treatment for their particular mental illness. It is less expensive and more effective in helping individuals rather than keeping them in jail, most of the time for very minor infractions. We will continue this work until we develop enough capacity to serve this population of people in Wyandotte County,” he said.

As he campaigns for re-election, he asks the constituents to keep in mind his experience, integrity, leadership, professionalism, fiscal accountability and partnerships and collaboration.

“Over the past eight plus years I have developed a professional administration, fiscal accountability and efficiency, and positive attitude and respect for the proud traditions of the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office. I thank you for the honor of your trust and support through your vote in the 2017 election on November 7th to continue to build upon the progress that we have made together,” said Sheriff Ash.

His opponent Celisha Towers has ten years of experience and stated on her website that she decided to run for Sheriff “because she has been called by God and recognizes her hometown Wyandotte County is in ‘grave danger’ with a 108 percent violent crime increase, and ranked #12 as Top Murder Capital in the United States.”

Towers believes she can bridge the gap between law enforcement and her community as she understands and has shared the same struggles within the department, and in the community. She sees a lack of community policing and realizes the changes need to be made in her community in order to lower the recidivism rate, and changes within the Sheriff’s Office so that the officers are better equipped to perform their duties efficiently.

“I have heard the complaints on both ends, and have decided to make those changes with the help of my community and fellow officers by my side,” she said.

Towers is a native of Wyandotte County, Kansas and grew up in the urban core of the county. As an adolescent, she was placed into Foster Care in Wyandotte County and was classified as an at-risk youth and a Child in Need of Care (CINC). After several friends fell to gun violence and jail, she quickly realized she wanted more out of life. She turned her focus onto her academics and sports and began to excel. She attended college on a scholarship and received her Associates Degree in Pre-Law and became a first generation college graduate in her immediate family.

“Criminal behavior is a response due to lack of resources, direction, and living conditions in my community. A mentor told me, the most important thing you can do is receive your education, then reach back in your community and help others receive theirs,” she said.

She received a Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice and a minor in Psychology from the Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

She returned to Kansas City, Kansas in 2012 and accepted a position as a Deputy Sheriff in the Wyandotte County Sheriff office. After nine months, she was promoted to the Sheriff Emergency Response Team. She was the first African American woman appointed to a Tactical Team in Kansas City, Kansas to serve High-Risk Warrants with Agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI).

“God’s calling over my life is to protect and serve my community. We need to have more transparency, community oversight, and accountability, create a safer community and make public safety a top priority. With over a decade of government experience, I know what it takes to find solutions, navigate complicated governmental agencies, and get things done. We cannot expect individuals who have no ties to our community to create change within our community. We must become the change we seek by using our voice to vote, and electing officials into office that reflect our community, with a forward agenda only,” said Towers. Election is Tuesday, November 7, 2017, Poll open 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.