East Idaho Elects: Len Humphries faces challenger John Virgin in Fremont County sheriff’s race
ST. ANTHONY — A major election coming up in Fremont County.
Three-term Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries is up for re-election. His opponent is John Virgin, a resident of Fremont County who currently works for Madison County Sheriff’s Office.
Several other races for sheriff are in Bannock, Power, Bonneville and Teton counties.
The primary will be held May 19.
Humphries is pleased with what he’s accomplished in the last three terms, and he’s hoping to continue the working relationship he has established with deputies and employees.
“I have an open-door policy, and I appreciate input from the employees. When they see something that they think would work better a different way, I’m always open to listen to those suggestions,” Humphries says. “I know how disruptive a change in leadership can be. I feel like I have a good crew put together currently, and I’d like to see them through that.”
Humphries says the employee turnover rate is low, which he considers one of his greatest accomplishments over the years. He is also proud of the certification of the jail about a year after he came into office in 2009.
“It’s a major accomplishment. Not all jails in Idaho have achieved that yet,” Humphries says.
Having a jail certified through the Idaho Sheriff’s Association significantly reduces the likelihood of lawsuits from inmates, says Humphries. Other certifications have resulted from that, including the Prison Rape Elimination Act designed to prevent sexual violence in all prisons.
Humphries has been in law enforcement since the early 1980s when he got his start as a reserve deputy in Fremont County.
“A friend of mine invited me to join the sheriff’s reserves. I went with him to a couple of meetings to see what it was like. I felt a good fit there, and that’s what I ended up doing,” he says.
After graduating from Police Officer and Standards Training, he went to work in Rexburg full time. He became a patrol officer in Fremont County six years later and gradually worked his way up the ranks.
Humphries is a former president of the Idaho Sheriff’s Association and represents the organization on the Idaho Public Safety Communications Commission. He also represents the National Association of Counties on the Public Safety Advisory Committee to FirstNet.
Humphries says he enjoys serving the community and loves the residents of Fremont County.
Virgin has more than 20 years of experience working in law enforcement and he’s running for sheriff because he wants to help strengthen the police force.
He says there’s a big push right now to make sure local law enforcement are equipped with the tools and resources they need.
“If they have the training and the equipment they need to do their job, you have better officer retention. (That) is a big problem for smaller agencies,” Virgin says. “At the forefront…(is) keeping employees happy so they can serve citizens and keeping the citizens happy.”
Virgin got his start as a reserve deputy in Madison County. His father, uncle, and numerous friends worked in law enforcement, and it was during a ride-along with one of his friends that he decided to follow in their footsteps.
“I’ve always had it in my blood,” says Virgin. “I was in the search and rescue when I was younger up in Fremont. It just clicked. I started clear back in ’96 or ’97 riding around with (my friend) and decided that’s what I was going to do.”
After graduating from POST, he worked as a patrolman for Rexburg Police Department. From there, he went to Teton County, where he eventually became the chief deputy.
Since 2005, he’s worked at Madison County Sheriff’s Office in various capacities, including as a training officer for the Idaho Narcotics Officers Association, Tri-County investigator and arson investigator. His current position is detective sergeant. He feels his background and skill set make him uniquely qualified to serve as sheriff.
“I’ve had to deal with all aspects (of law enforcement),” he says. “I feel my (knowledge base) makes me a well-rounded (candidate). It will definitely help me out in that (role).”
Virgin appreciates the lifelong friends he’s gained from working in public service. He enjoys living and raising his family in Fremont County with all the geographical diversity.
“I hope I get the opportunity to serve and keep Fremont County a place where we continue to want our families to grow,” says Virgin.