Incumbent Sheriff Len Humphries faces John Virgin in Fremont County Sheriff race
ST. ANTHONY — Three-term Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries is seeking re-election, but Fremont County resident John Virgin, who is a detective at the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, is also seeking the position.
Both are competing in the May 19 Republican primary. To learn more about the candidate’s platform, EastIdahoNews.com sent the same eight questions to each candidate. Their unedited responses, listed below, were required to be 250 words or less.
More information on Virgin can be found on his Facebook page.
Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.
Humphries: I came to Fremont County when I was 16 and my parents bought the Egin Merc. I still live in Egin with my wife Johanna. We have been married for 42 years and have five children and 17 grandchildren.
My formal education was at Ricks College where I studied Electrical Engineering Technology. Prior to attending college, I served a two-year mission to Brazil. In 1982, I became a volunteer reserve deputy and then went to work full time as a patrol deputy in 1988. I have 27 years of experience in law enforcement with the last 11 years as Sheriff. I hold the Executive certification through Idaho POST.
I have been a member of the Saint Anthony Rotary for the past 11 years, I have taught 4H for the last 20 years and I am a volunteer Hunters Ed instructor for the last 19 years. I am a member of the Idaho Public Safety Communications Commission and I represent our area on the Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victims Assistance. I am an amateur radio operator, N7SN.
Virgin: My name is John Virgin. My wife Jessie currently works as an X-ray/MRI/CT tech at Madison Memorial. Together we have six children — four boys and two girls ages 24-7. Family means everything to us and we love spending time together, even during social distancing. I was born at the St. Anthony Hospital to Gary T. Virgin and Karen Ottesen Virgin. My stepmother was Claudia Marotz Virgin of Greentimber. I attended and graduated from South Fremont High school in 1990.
I have 22 years of law enforcement experience. I started my career riding along with Madison County Sheriff’s Office in 1996 and 1997. I was hired full time with Rexburg Police Department in 1998. I then went to work for Teton County Sheriff’s Office for Sheriff Ryan Kaufman as a patrolman, patrol sergeant and then chief deputy. I returned to Madison County Sheriff’s Office in 2005 as a patrolman, detective and currently hold the position of detective sergeant.
I hold an Advanced Certificate with the Idaho Police Officer’s Standards and Training Council. I am an arson investigator, marine deputy, child forensic interviewer and field training officer. I’m also a member of the Tri-County Investigators and the Upper Valley Critical Incident Team. I was a past president of the Madison Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police and a training coordinator for the Idaho Narcotic Officer’s Association. I have specialized training in first-line supervision, SWAT, firearms, death investigations, fraud, crime scenes, interview and interrogation, patrol and various other law enforcement areas.
What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?
Virgin: My wife and children are, of course, my greatest personal accomplishment. As far as my career, all of it. I have always loved being a part of the Law Enforcement family and serving my communities where I live.
Humphries: My proudest accomplishment in my personal life would be my family. Our kids are great people and are raising wonderful families of their own and we love spending time with them.
On a career level, being elected sheriff of Fremont County 12 years ago and serving in that position since, would be my proudest accomplishment. I have been able to put together an excellent team at the sheriff’s office and they are doing a great job for Fremont County.
Briefly explain your political platform, and/or legislative goals if you are elected to office.
Humphries: I am seeking an additional four years as sheriff so that I can continue working with the team that I have been able to put in place at the sheriff’s office and to provide stability for everyone on that team. That stability serves the community. I am not seeking re-election just to win and then turn the office over to someone else. I have much yet to accomplish and look forward to doing so.
Twelve years ago, I ran on an issue that the county jail needed to be certified in order to reduce liability problems for the county. Within a year of my taking office, we were successful in obtaining certification for the jail. Since that time through today, the jail is certified and in fact last year, we were able to reach federal certification thanks to a lot of hard work by our officers who manage and work in the jail. There has not been a successful lawsuit against the jail while I have been in office.
Virgin: My platform or objective is for the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office employees to receive the training and tools that they need to professionally and successfully serve the people of Fremont County. Fremont County has had some high profile cases in the last couple of years. The world that we live in today is ever-changing, and I want to make sure that we are prepared to handle any and all cases that we are faced with as our community grows. My wish is to create an office of leaders in law enforcement that are willing to take part in our community.
What are the greatest challenges facing your county?
Virgin: Fremont County is facing growth on all sides. BYU-I is growing and causing growth as students and employees of BYU-I move further away from the high prices of Rexburg. Also, our county is receiving more and more tourists due to our beautiful and diverse outdoors and down-home family way of life. This growth is causing growing pains. Drugs have been steadily on the rise, which in turn causes other personal and property crimes to rise. We need to continually learn new ways to battle these crimes and try to keep it under control.
Humphries: The greatest challenge facing Fremont County would be that of providing emergency services for the residents and for all the visitors who come to our county every year. It places an exceptionally large tax burden on the property owners and while visitors do bring in tourist dollars, those seldom fill the need as expectations continually rise.
How is your experience better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than your competitor(s)?
Humphries: Due to my technical background, I can make sure that communications needs are taken care of and we currently have the latest technology in 911 and radio communications, most of which were paid for by grants. I also have great working relations with all of those who we work with at the sheriff’s office. We help them and they help us. We have contracts with BLM and Forest Service to provide law enforcement for them and that has helped offset some costs.
We have the best Search and Rescue unit in the state, and I have been able to support and help them obtain training and equipment so that they can better provide this valuable service. The Sheriff’s Office works remarkably close with these wonderful volunteers.
Virgin: Fremont county has a great team of very capable officers. I have worked alongside them, and I respect the work they have done. My experience has come from working within different agencies and communities. My ideas are new and can help strengthen the office in tackling the ever-changing world of law enforcement. I have been and am currently working on active cases. I have seen first hand the unique challenges we are facing every day out in the field.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?
Virgin: My job first and foremost will be to serve the people of Fremont County. I will serve our county to the best of my ability, protect the rights of its citizens and always work for the respect of the people of this county.
Humphries: It is well known that my door is always open and that I am available to listen to those who would like to talk to me — employees, members of the community or visitors. I always return phone messages and emails.
How do you plan to improve relationships with other elected officials in your county and with state legislative officials?
Humphries: I have always worked hard at improving relationships with other elected officials and have a long track record of doing so. In 2018, I was awarded the Mills Adler Award by the Idaho Association of Counties which is an award presented to individuals to recognize those elected officials who strive to improve local government.
Virgin: It is important to have strong relationships with other agencies and officials. This is something in my career that I have always strived to maintain. One way that I have been able to do this is by maintaining open communication with those agencies. We all want to have our voice heard, but it is also important to work together and as long as we all have the best interest of the people in mind, we can come together with a common solution.
What are your views regarding the role of the media in covering your county? How can you best work with local reporters to ensure coverage of the issues?
Virgin: I think that the media plays a very important role to help keep the community informed. I intend to have an open relationship with local reporters/media. There have been times throughout my career that I have seen media help our case and sometimes it has even lead to locate or solve a case. There are however times when we do not share all of the information of the case to protect the integrity of the judicial process until the judge/jury have heard the case.
Humphries: The media is the watchdog over government. I do work with local reporters all the time. They have my contact information and I always take their calls. If there is information that I can provide to them, I do. We push out information by Facebook, and when there is a press release, we email that to them.