And so the journey begins…

Born and raised in Lawrence/Douglas County…not a great student…married the other half of my soul without knowing it at the time…became a Sheriff’s Deputy…think I should be the next Sheriff. Oh, and ‘like’ and ‘share’ please.

 

I was born right here in Douglas County at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in November of 1975. My mom and dad were Cheri and Gale and both LHS graduates.  My dad (LHS Class of ’63) was such a great dad and a really good human being. He worked at Hallmark Cards Lawrence Plant for over 30 years and retired and took a job mowing sod at Pines Landscaping in the summer and substitute teaching during the school year. Dad passed away in 2005 from a rare brain disease called Creutzfeld-Jakobs. I miss him very much. 

Mom (LHS Class of ’62)had a 40+ year career as a nurse at LMH and has been such an integral part of my journey before and especially since dad’s passing. She has been there for me and my ladies every step of the way. And as Cody Jinks says in his song, “I know it wasn’t always easy raising my father’s son.” Mom has been an absolute saint and I owe her so so much.

My brother, Matt (LHS Class of ’88), works for John Deere in their Ag Market Analytics division and lives up in the Kansas City area. He married a Lawrence girl and they have two kids that keep them crazy busy as well. 

I have two daughters, Baily and Carly, and they both attend Baldwin High School. They are completely different kids from each other and I could not be more proud of them. Being a father is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

Most important of all, I am married to my best friend and ally in everything I do. Betsy and I met at Baldwin High in 1992 when she was a Freshman and I was a Junior. We started dating and never stopped (photo shown is from our first date). We have grown up together and the word ‘love’ doesn’t even match up anymore to what we have. We lean on each other every day and it’s almost as if when I breath in, she exhales for me and vice versa. We compliment each other in every way. She is a fierce protector and I the empath. She loves to find solutions to problems and I love finding the cause of the problem in the first place. She wants a balanced checkbook and I haven’t used a check register since the mid-90’s. She likes destinations and I enjoy the journeys. I like music and she enjoys the silence. She could care less about sportsball games and I invest too much in my Royals and Jayhawks. But for all our differences, we come together on so much like parenting, the future, and how we nurture our relationship day-to-day. 

And now we again find ourselves on a journey and Betsy is excitedly helping me plan for the destination while we try and figure out the best way for us to get there. Thank you so much for coming along with us and I need each and every one of you if we intend to make this become a reality. 

Don’t forget to ‘like’ and ‘share’ this so we can coat Facebook with my name and story. It’s up to us all to show our community why I am the right choice and it doesn’t cost a dime to do it. Thank you so much and I’ll see you here next Sunday with the next installment in the story of me. –Jay

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” –Chinese Proverb

Chapter 2 of the 'Story of Jay'

While attending Pittsburg Sate University, all freshmen were required to live in the dorms. During the holiday breaks, we had to move out and the dorms were closed for maintenance. I had a job on a farm in nearby Girard, KS. I would move in with a family I had known my whole life, Chad and Mandy Commons, who also lived in Pittsburg. Chad worked for the Crawford County Sheriff's Office and he would tell me stories about the people he helped and the situations he dealt with and I thought it was just so cool. He told me one time I should look into Law Enforcement because he thought I'd be good at it. I never really thought much about it because I was fairly sure the officers main jobs were making sure I had NO fun and also to hand me speeding tickets through my driver's side window. But the helping people thing really intrigued me...

In the summer of 1998, it was becoming quite apparent that I was not a great mechanic and I applied and was hired at the Douglas County Sheriff's Office as a "Jailer", I went to work in what we now call the "old jail", which was on the second floor of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center at 11th and New Hampshire. 

I was quickly promoted to Deputy and I graduated from the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center in July of 1999. I then went back to work in the "new jail", which is the facility we still operate today. On July 2nd, 2000, I worked my first shift on road patrol. I didn't know it that first day, but it wasn't long until I figured out that I was built to do this job. It came easy for me and to be arrogantly honest, I was good at it. The community I served was a better place because of me getting in that car every day and I loved it. I spent the next 11 years in the road patrol division and while it changed me as a human, I never stopped loving what I did. It was what I was meant to do and I am fiercely proud of the job I did. 

Thanks as always for reading all about me and please please please like and share this. I will see you next Sunday for Chapter 3 of Me and hopefully between now and then I hope to make a formal announcement about a secret I have failed to keep quiet for a few days already. I will be announcing my choice for Undersheriff. She is a woman of the most unbreakable integrity and quite possibly one of the most compassionate humans I've ever met. On top of that, she was an awesome cop. I cannot be more pleased to have her by my side on this journey and stay tuned for the big (not-so-secret) announcement this week! -Jay

Meet Captain Stacy Simmons

When Sheriff McGovern first talked to me about running for Sheriff back in early 2018, I left that conversation and went directly to my most trusted co-worker, Stacy Simmons. I asked her if she would support me in this and she was excited for me and made me feel like I could be the Sheriff this county deserves. She and I have worked together since we both started with the Sheriff’s Office in 1998. She is one of my most trusted friends and advisors inside and outside of the agency. I am proud to tears to announce that Captain Stacy Simmons has always been my pick, but I officially made the ask and she has agreed to join this campaign as my Undersheriff. I will let her Biography speak for itself, but her accomplishments and dedication to this agency and community are unrivaled.

 

On top of her work within the Sheriff’s Office, I also consider Stacy and her wife, Toni, two of my closest friends. They are the Godmothers to my daughters and two people my family and I can count on for anything. They are just unbelievably good humans and I am completely humbled to have them by my side on this journey. Stacy and I, both nearly life-long registered Democrats, share our vision in the direction of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office going forward into the future. We hope to continue to keep mental health in the forefront of the public conversation, we are willing to listen to any alternative that may keep people who do not belong in jail at home or someplace they can receive the help they need, and we look forward to playing a role in our schools where we as Law Enforcement can begin to build relationships with the future instead of only showing up in their lives when they are in crisis or have been victimized. We want every child’s first interaction with Law Enforcement to be one of compassion, respect, trust. 

In the areas where I may lack experience or expertise, she excels. She is the perfect fit for me. When she and I ran the inaugural Citizen’s Academy, she lovingly described the two of us as, “I’m the clipboard and Jay’s the microphone.” I will leave you with this. If you have a chance, ask any employee of the Sheriff’s Office about her and I can promise you will hear what a compassionate, knowledgeable, respectful, and nurturing boss she is. I look forward even more to this process now and I know there is nothing the two of us can’t handle or conquer. In the face of the most tragic or demanding situations this county could possibly face, you will be proud and thankful for having she and I at the helm. Thank you again for your time and don’t forget to like and share all this stuff so we can reach this entire county one person at a time. Thank you! -Jay

Chapter 3 of Me… The Patrol years

In May of 2000, I was granted a transfer to the Operations Division. I worked for two months in the Courtroom Security Division before being transferred to the Patrol Division. July 2nd, 2000 was my first day on patrol and that day is solidified in my life as the day it all changed for me. I found my calling and I was in love with what I was doing. The job of road deputy just seemed to come to me and I settled into it like a pair of boots that were built only for me. During these years I learned so much about the world we live in. I learned that there is absolutely NO LIMIT to what one human will do to another, especially if they say they love them. I also learned that bad things happen to good people all the time and just because someone finds themselves on the wrong side of the law, it in no way means they are not a good person. Some of the finest humans I have met in this job have had a run-in or two with the law and some of the worst among us I had the misfortune of dealing with have never been arrested. You learn quickly that you cannot paint with a broad brush and every person is their own story and it was up to me to learn their story and figure out where to go from there.

I remained in the patrol division for basically the next 10 years. I did make the rank of Corporal (what would now be Sergeant) while on patrol and remained in that position until March of 2010 when I was promoted to Detective. Those 10 years on patrol are without a doubt my most memorable years and most deeply satisfying. I am fiercely proud of the job I did while I was in that car and I know I made a difference. During 2005, I responded to the Boardwalk Apartment fire and as a result of my actions that night, I received both the Medal of Bravery (2nd highest honor) from the Sheriff’s Office, but also the Silver Life Saving Award from the State of Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police. A few years later I had the unfortunate opportunity to arrive on scene of a roll-over wreck where the driver was still pinned in the upside down vehicle with gasoline filling the vehicle. I was able to remove parts of my uniform and get myself into the wrecked car through a back window and get the driver out of the seatbelt he was hanging from, render aid to him, and move him out and away from the car. For my actions that night, I received the Sheriff’s Office Operations Commendation award as well as a Douglas County Valor Silver Life Saving Award. That Valor award is special in it’s own right in that my children now will receive a $1000 scholarship each year they attend college. I never intended to do what I did for awards or anything, but it really is nice to hear someone say you did a good job. Patrol was a mixture of good and bad. I was able to help those who needed help. I was able to handle those who needed to be handled. I met people in this community I would never have otherwise had the opportunity to meet. I also met some who I would have been just fine having never met, but it was all worth it. Patrol was deeply satisfying for me and it had my heart back then and still does today. I no longer have the capacity to do that job the way I once did, but I still have the ability and I still feel 100% confident that there is no situation I could not handle if asked. I have written the proverbial “blank check” to this community and I am not afraid to lay my life down in defense of the people I am entrusted to protect. It’s just who I am and what I was built to do. 

As for the next nearly 7 years in the Investigations Division, my story begins to change. I worked any and all cases that came across my desk in those years. I worked everything from forgery and theft cases all the way up to homicide cases. It was during this 7-year span that I realized that not only did I see the bad this world had to offer, I saw the very worst. As a detective, when your phone rings, it’s not to tell you things are going well. By the time I was called, the situation was serious and needed my immediate attention. I sat across from a murderer who confessed to me how he shot and killed his childhood best friend and business partner and dumped his body in our county. I had never had a nightmare until I was assigned to assist with the quadruple homicide in Franklin County where a small child was murdered as it tried to reach for it’s mother who had already been murdered and raped. I also became the child sex crime detective and those cases always take a part of your soul with them when they are investigated. These years were the most trying of my life without any doubt.

I learned during these years that I was an empath and I took other people’s problems on as my own in order to fix them. I did not realize until it was too late that I was taking on too much trauma and doing nothing to resolve any of it. I use the analogy that I was placing all these incidents and situations into raggedy old boxes on rickety old shelves in a dark storage room in my mind that had only a feather as the lock. The warning signs were brief and fleeting just before that lock sprung open and those shelves imploded on themselves. I found myself in my very own mental health crisis in the summer of 2015 and I now carry a new-found respect for mental health resources and initiatives. I reached out to the right people and I received the help I needed. I was able to walk from the darkness back into the light because of the support I received during that time. I will forever be grateful for those who invested in me and helped me to become who I am today (scars and all). 

Next week, I’d like to go a little more in-depth about the Summer of 2015 and all the good that came out of tragedy and I will re-introduce to a character you met last week and one of my oldest and dearest friends, Ryan Robinson. I also want to talk more about my plan for mental health initiatives for not only the first responder community, but our community in general. As always, thank you for reading this whole thing. Please hit the heart button and share so we can continue to reach the people who need to hear my story. 

Much Love, -Jay

August 2015-Chapter 4 in the story of me… 

TLDR: I had to notify one of my oldest friends of the passing of his son and I found myself in a mental health crisis, so as part of my recovery, I realized how I, as Sheriff, could continue the work of mental health awareness and what I plan to do.

Beginning in March of 2010, I began my time as a Detective in the Investigations Unit. I’ve already talked about this time, but it bears repeating… This time in my career came at the highest cost to me personally, but I also did some of my most rewarding work and created some life-long connections. I still carry small pieces of each child victim I did all I could to help, every suicide I worked to bring closure to loved ones, every fatality accident I tried to make sense of, and every family of the deceased I helped through their grieving process by providing all I could to put the pieces together for them.  


Late in the summer of 2015, I found myself in uncharted waters. I had begun having nightmares from the Franklin County homicide case in which every night I would be inside the home with the suspect following him as he killed his victims yet no matter what I did to him, he continued on his path as if I wasn’t there. This ruled my night times for months and true rest was difficult. I found myself caring less and less about my own personal safety and began taking risks my training and conscience would scream at me to stop doing. I just didn’t care anymore. Then one day I received a phone call late in the afternoon while I was at the office. 

On the phone was Lt. Jason Grems, whom I love dearly and have worked with for almost my entire career. He was working at the jail and the Highway Patrol had called out there looking for our friend, Ryan Robinson, because they had learned that Ryan used to work out there. Yes, this is the same Ryan I grew up with, went to school with for my whole life, played every sport under the sun with, had sleep-overs with, was scared to death of his mom, Pat, went to the Law Enforcement Academy with, and still consider one of, if not the oldest and dearest friend I have. The Highway Patrol Trooper was looking for Ryan because Ryan’s son, Hunter, had been killed in an incident on K10 in Johnson County. They needed to find Ryan to notify him of the passing of his son. Details aside, I had watched Hunter grow up and I knew the absolute and unbreakable bond between Hunter and Ryan. That bond had just been broken and Ryan’s life had just changed in the worst possible way, yet he didn’t even know yet. The only thing to do was be there when Ryan learned what had happened. I felt it was my job to be there, so I had to get moving to find him before anybody else could. 

While driving down Iowa St towards Ryan’s House, my phone rang. I was already in a panic and going over in my head what I was going to say. I mean, what the hell do you tell a father and friend in this situation? I had no idea, but I was already falling apart inside trying to put it together the words to say. I picked up my phone and looked and it was Ryan calling me. He knew…somehow he knew… I answered and immediately asked him through my choked throat and tears where he was. He could only shout, “WHAT THE ___ IS GIONG ON JAY!?!?” He told me to tell him right then and there. All I could choke out was, “It’s Hunter, Ryan…” He either hung up or dropped the phone. I was only a few blocks from his house, so when I pulled in, he met me in the yard. It went as heart-breakingly as you would expect. His eyes begged me to be a liar, but they knew I was telling the truth. The rest of that day and the days following were a blur. My shelves had just imploded and I found myself not well at all. Why was this breaking me so badly? Other officers have done these same things I have and they are fine, right? Was I weak? Was something wrong with me?...

I got by for a few months simply on my sense of duty. I still had work to do and I believed people needed me to be me. But I wasn’t me; that guy was gone. My wife, Betsy, finally begged me to get help because she was scared for me. She said she had a fear in the pit of her stomach every day coming home from work not knowing if I’d be there or be gone. I had learned that the loneliest place in the world was a room full of people and true loneliness comes from within. I was simply going through the motions of life, yet living not one minute of it. When she told me I had scared her, I knew it was time to get on with getting myself out of the dark and back into the light for her and our girls if that was even an option. 

Topeka PD had just had an officer killed in the line of duty a year or two prior to this and I knew a supervisor over there who helped with the recovery aspect of his passing. I called Jen Cross with Topeka PD and told her my situation and that I needed help, but I wanted someone who knew the life of a law enforcement officer and the traumas we deal with. Without any hesitation, she recommended Dr. Jenny Prohaska. I hung up and called Doc Prohaska and got on her schedule that day. After nearly two years of working with Doc, she recommended me to a retreat that is for first responders who have been diagnosed with PTSD and it’s put on by first responders. It’s called West Coast Post Trauma Retreat and I attended in the summer of 2017. The following months will be my next chapter because it has a direct link in my decision to run for Sheriff. Between Doc Prohaska, my wife, medication, the support of my agency and Sheriff McGovern, I can honestly say my life was saved. I will never be who I was before all of this, but I’m better than I was yesterday, and I was doing really well yesterday. Did you know in the past year, Law Enforcement Suicides have surpassed line of duty deaths? Did you know PTSD is not recognized by the State of Kansas as the INJURY it is and you cannot collect your retirement based solely on that diagnosis? You can break your leg and get your retirement early, but break your brain and you have to get back to work. When I say I want to make changes to the mental resources for Law Enforcement, I mean having a clinician on staff, creating and nurturing an environment in the agency that allows people to say “I’m not okay.” I will work tirelessly to remove this stigma related to mental health issues and show that police and sheriff deputies are humans and in order for them to be the resource their community deserves, we have to provide them the resources to be “okay.” 

“It’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way.” -Joseph Smarro

As always, please share and like this post (the more people who hit the heart icon, the further this gets shared on FB). I have had very positive feedback on my openness and honesty in these posts. I feel like that is what you all deserve from somebody who is asking for your support to be in a position of this kind of importance. What you are reading is exactly who I am and it is me who I’m asking you to vote for. Thank you for reading, and we will talk again next Sunday. Next week will be an easier story for me to tell and for you to read… I promise.  😊 Thanks again! -Jay

Chapter 5… The Run for Sheriff

TLDR: There was a moment in time where I thought I was going to leave Law Enforcement for my own good. Instead I had an epiphany and decided my path lies in becoming the next Sheriff of Douglas County. 

In my last installment, I talked about the retreat I attended for first responders who suffer from PTSD. During that retreat, I had an honest conversation with myself and at that moment in time, I made the decision that perhaps my time as a Sheriff’s Deputy had run it’s course. I felt while I still had the ability to continue at the level I had come to expect from myself, I worried I no longer had the capacity to take on any more trauma. This thought process scared me in a way I had never been scared before. I had no clue what else I would ever do. I was built to be in law enforcement and I was good at it, but it was looking as if it may not be good for me.

 

When I got home I talked to Betsy and the emotions were mixed. She was so happy that I felt like I had a life worth living and fighting for. She was also relieved that perhaps I may take an easier path from here on. But, she knew what the Sheriff’s Office meant to me and she knew the decision was a difficult one. A tiger doesn’t just walk out from under it’s stripes. I had invested too much and the Sheriff’s Office was such a huge part of who I was and who I wanted to be. Finally, I decided I’d look and see what a future away from law enforcement might look like. 

I was standing at my kitchen sink one day eating something I was too lazy to get a plate out for and I was thinking about this (because it was all I was thinking about at the time). I just wanted to believe there was some way I could continue to make a difference while moving away from the work I had been doing. At this point, I had been granted a transfer away from the Investigations Division and was back working on Patrol as a Sergeant. While looking out my window I had the thought, “what if I stopped doing and started leading…like REALLY leading.” This hit me like stack of bricks. I took this thought and ran with it. Very soon, I said to myself, “I am going to have to run for Sheriff.” With my breadth of experience, commitment to right and wrong, the depth of my roots in this community, my strong loyalty to this agency and it’s employees, compounded with my newfound passion for helping people along their mental health recovery path, Sheriff was the only answer. This was the place from which I could make the biggest and most significant impact. I excitedly told Betsy of my epiphany and she surprisingly shared in my excitement. Apparently she thought I could do this and she felt like I was doing it for the right reasons. That was all it took for her to get on board. I had entertained the idea of becoming Sheriff earlier in my career, but my reasoning back then lacked true depth and commitment. Now, I had a reason, a goal, and a path, and I was not going to be deterred from it.

The next day, and I mean the absolute very next day, I was back at work and sitting at my desk. Sheriff McGovern caught me and asked if I’d ever thought about running for Sheriff. You could have knocked me over with a day-old hotdog. I told him, believe it or not, I have, and this parlayed into a very informative and empowering set of conversations. 

As I told you in an earlier post, after this first conversation, I went directly to Captain Stacy Simmons and asked her if she would support me. Again, I was unbelievably humbled to find that she did in fact support this idea and that I may in fact make a great Sheriff. And from that moment, this ball was rolling and there was no stopping it. I filed a short time later and the rest is playing out in front of all of us as we speak. 

I have a strong belief that I have much more to offer this agency, but I feel I have just as much to offer, if not more, to this community. The relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve has changed over the last decade and I want to be the one who breaks down the decades of barriers standing between community engagement and those of us who are here to serve. It all begins with trust and in order to earn your trust, I plan to show you exactly who I am and how I arrived where I am today and where I hope we go into the future. I won’t stand here and try to tell you I want more transparency; I’m going to live transparency and show you exactly who I am and where I see us going as a community.

I am fully aware of the tensions and perspective of distrust some have of Law Enforcement as a whole and I fully accept that. I only ask that if you feel this way, become part of the solution and work alongside me instead of against me to make this the community we both want to live in and raise our children in. This includes very having difficult conversations and it also depends on we, as Law Enforcement, accepting our responsibility in the erosion of trust from the public we serve. But in order to build trust, we have to begin with a conversation and find our common ground and build upon it from there. I want this more than anything and I want to find folks in this community who share my vision. I want every perspective brought to the table and every group of people who want to be heard and respected to have a voice. Again though, I will say this with the honesty it deserves; I want to hear the problem and then I want to hear your solution or at least your ideas on how to approach a solution. Problems are easy to point out. Solutions are where the work starts and ends and I’m ready to work with you and for you. -Jay

Your Sunday Evening Post… Chapter 6

I’m going to step outside the norm and go with a bit more of an educational post so when you ask yourself, “what does the Sheriff’s Office do?”, you’ll know

By state statute, the Sheriff of each county is responsible for serving all “Civil Process”, which is basically all the writs, subpoenas, and other court paperwork that would need to be served on an individual or business as well as keeping the peace. However, the main responsibility of the Sheriff is to maintain the county jail within the city limits of the county seat (Lawrence). 

Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has two major divisions with those being the Corrections Division and the Operations Division. Under the umbrella of these, there are many more subdivisions or units as well. We have a court security unit, a road patrol unit, a warrants unit, a training unit, an investigations unit, and numerous subdivisions within the jail that helps run the day-to-day operations such as our Re-Entry Team, IT, the booking unit, the Classification Unit and the Transport unit. 

The Sheriff has two Undersheriffs (although we currently have one Undersheriff with one unfilled position) with 5 Captains under them. This makes up what we formally consider the Administration of the agency. From there we have 13 Lieutenants and 12 Sergeants working under those Captains. Mixed in there are 5 Detectives who work for a Captain as well. We also in the last few years created a position where a Deputy who has worked with the agency for many years can attain the rank of Master Deputy if they have shown excellence in their field as well as dedication to using their skills outside of the normal job requirements by being a part of a specialized unit such as our Honor Guard, Accident Investigation and Reconstruction Unit, and the Underwater Search and Recovery Unit. Deputy is the entry-level position for a commissioned law enforcement officer in our agency and in order to reach rank of any designation, you must first be a deputy. We have deputies who work in nearly every division including the jail as well as the patrol division, court security, warrants, and transports.

Within the jail, we have corrections officers as well as civilian staff. Many corrections officers choose to remain in the jail setting and never put in for a deputy position. This is because the Corrections Division is where they feel they can best utilize their skills and they wish to make a career there. These people are no less important than any other position in this agency and they work long shifts with difficult hours to maintain the high level of professionalism and excellence our citizens expect from our jail and its staff.

My whole point in showing you this breakdown of our agency is so you can see that I started at the very bottom as a Corrections Officer and have steadily rose through the ranks to my current position of Lieutenant. And while I look forward to advancing my career and rank, I also took 7 years in the middle of my career to work as a Detective. I could have skipped this and just continued to put in for promotions and perhaps I would hold a higher rank right now, but I would not have done the work I am most proud of. I would not trade my years as a Detective for anything or for any rank. I would not trade the lives I impacted and the people I helped for anything. 

I have included a graphic that shows exactly what I have done and accomplished over the course of my career, but I have also included the exemplary record of my Undersheriff candidate, Captain Stacy Simmons. We give you this information to help you be an INFORMED VOTER in this upcoming primary election on August 4th, 2020 and general election in November. The election of Douglas County Sheriff is important to this community and this will help you compare our experience to the other candidates and you can be fully informed about who you are voting for. The depth and breadth of our experience within this agency as well as our caring and compassion for this community is why I hope I can count on your support to make me your next Sheriff.  -Jay

Chapter 7: Who I am and why I do what I do…

In January of 2012, I was working as a detective and became involved in one of the most intricate, time-consuming, soul-consuming, and difficult cases I have ever been a part of. But, in the end, it worked out as well as anyone could have asked for and I formed a bond with the family of the victim that will never be broken. I wish I had never met the Brown family because that would mean their family hadn’t suffered this tragedy, but since it did happen, we worked through it together and I love the Brown Family and they love me back. This is the human side of Law Enforcement.

Corey Brown was found in rural Douglas County on a cold January morning and for the next two years, I, along with the rest of the Douglas County Detectives, worked to convict the man responsible. Corey’s childhood best friend and business partner eventually confessed to me that he had killed Corey and he explained why and how he did it that day. He is now serving over 60 years in prison for this murder as well as another murder he committed when he was younger.

During the course of this investigation, I became very connected to the Brown Family, and especially Corey’s older sister, Stacey, who became my point-of-contact with the family. Without Stacey’s help, I am absolutely convinced there would have been no resolution. When I informed her I was attempting to become the Sheriff of Douglas County, she offered to write me a letter of recommendation. With her permission, I have included excerpts from that letter. Again, I am humbled to tears that she feels this way about me, but I also want to share this with all of you because this is who I am. This is the man I hope you will be voting for during the Primary on August 4th. 

“My name is Stacey Wagner and Jay Armbrister was the lead detective in the case of my brother’s murder (2012). While the situation in which we met Detective Armbrister was excruciatingly difficult, my family was given the opportunity to work with one of the most credible and ethical individuals I have had the good fortune to come across, in law enforcement or otherwise.

While I have found it rare to encounter a person who works authentically and tirelessly without motives cultivated in personal gain or agenda, Detective Armbrister did just that. In the years my family worked with him we saw a genuine demonstration of professionalism, integrity, perseverance and compassion. He upheld the highest standards of law enforcement – regardless of person or circumstance. We saw firsthand what it means for law enforcement to “Protect and Serve”; ….in its most literal, honorable and credible form.

Equally remarkable is the regard he demonstrated towards my family in the midst of this tragedy. His compassion helped pave a path for us to start moving through our grief and despair by answering our questions and continuing to tirelessly work the case. 

Ultimately and shockingly, a confession was given by the perpetrator and he is now incarcerated for life. Without Jay and his work, I firmly believe this case would have remained open. His tireless efforts brought closure to our family, justice for my brother and served the community by making it a safer place to live a work. My words fall short to express the heartfelt gratitude for what he did for our family through his work. It will never be forgotten. I know most certainly he will continue to lead others in upholding the standards of the law as they are intended. But even more importantly, he will continue to demonstrate a level of integrity that many aspire to, but few attain.” -Stacey Wagner (Brown)

It’s cases like this that I am most proud to have been a part of, but also the reason I will never be who I was before I became a law enforcement officer. I approach every situation with the intention of working to protect the humans involved and not the system that at times doesn’t show the care and compassion these people deserve. It’s just who I am and it’s exactly who I will be as your next Sheriff. I’ll talk to you all next Sunday if not sooner. -Jay

Chapter 8 : I Have Plans…

I am one who really works hard to avoid “political speak” and I don’t want to be one of those candidates who simply says many things without actually saying anything at all. I refuse to stand here and tell you only what the problems are, yet offer not one single solution. It’s one of my pet peeves when someone claims they want to be transparent, yet they tell you nothing about who they are, where they are from, what they have done that makes them the right person for the job, or specific plans they have to make improvements. I will live transparency…not just say it’s important to me.

I’ve spoken at great length about mental health initiatives I’d like to see in place if I am to be your next Sheriff, but I feel I need to repeat them. I want to hire a full-time clinician for the Sheriff’s Office. I want someone who not only is available in times of need, but I also want routine “check-ins” for our staff throughout the year. We expect our first responders to be physically healthy, but it’s time we demand that they be mentally healthy as well. I also will champion at the state and federal level to bring PTSD into the forefront so first responders who suffer from this crippling injury will get the hard-earned and much-deserved retirement they have worked and have given so much for. If this means standing on desks in Topeka or Washington DC, that is where I will be.

Other areas I hope to make a serious impact is in community outreach. This is a broad term, but to me it means investment and trust between the community we serve and those who serve. I would like to see a Citizen’s Review Board established so we can have true community perspectives brought into certain situations where Law Enforcement has resisted outside influence for far too long. We work to serve this community, so this community has every right to be at the table when it’s decided how we should be serving. I also want to see an increased presence in schools and activities for young people. I do not want a child’s first interaction with a law enforcement officer to be one of stress, fear, or embarrassment. I want the people who are here to protect those children be seen as the humans that they are and I want them to look to us for help and protection…not fear. Captain Simmons (Undersheriff choice) has already researched and come up with a plan for a summer or day camp. I think this is a fantastic idea and I will see to it something like this happens.

Lastly, the Sheriff’s Office makes up the largest portion of the overall Douglas County budget. Our annual operating budget is right around $15.8 million dollars. That is a serious responsibility and as Sheriff, it falls to me to be the steward of the public money and I will ensure that each and every tax dollar spent will be done so in an ethical and reasonable fashion. I also want to ensure that the money spent is utilized in the way it has the largest positive impact on the community and the employees who work in this agency. One example is to look over each contract entered into for services to ensure proper cost and effective support is being provided. We currently hold contracts with Bert Nash Mental Health, American Correctional Health, Spillman, Power DMS and other records management systems to name a few. A second example is to work closely with our Training Unit regarding hiring and retention. It is costly to professionally train Corrections Officers and Deputy Sheriff’s. When staff chooses to leave, we must be able to clearly understand what deciding factors led to their decision. Optimally, understanding the demands of our staff’s responsibilities and making every effort to make appropriate changes while employed, will ultimately lower our turnover rate and save money.

Chapter 9: The Person Under the Uniform

When you cast a vote for any candidate, I feel like you deserve to know not only who that person is on paper and in their official capacity, but also who they are when they are not on duty. I want to take this chance to stop talking about quarantines, candidate platforms, and all the other stuff that just gets in the way of the human side of this world, and in my case, the human behind the badge.

I have already talked about my upbringing here in Lawrence as well as my family. What I’d love to share is who I am when I’m not at work. My whole life, I have been somewhat mechanically-inclined and I derive much enjoyment and fulfillment from working with my hands. Whether that is working with my hands in wood, dirt, metal, clay, livestock, or any other medium, I love the act of ‘doing’. I have always enjoyed the journey more than the destination so to speak. 

While I was a terrible mechanic, I still really enjoyed fixing things that were broken. This manifested itself in a deep passion for taking old forgotten cars and breathing new life into them to give them one last moment in the sun. By this I mean I fell in love with demolition derbies. I built and drove derby cars for most of the mid-2000s, and I loved it. The process of finding the car, tearing it down to the bones and then making it something remarkable and powerful, and then giving it the final send-off in style was where I found my enjoyment. I loved building and competing, but unfortunately it came along too late in life and I needed to be a father, a husband, and someone who heals a little quicker, so I gave it up and turned to a more docile and home-oriented set of activities. I took up two things and they are still my passion today. Local-based food procurement/hobby farming, as well as woodworking. 

My wife and I became very disenchanted in the Industrial American food system after she read the book Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingslover. We built a chicken coop for egg-layers and as anyone who has laying lady-birds knows, they are a gateway animal to more and more livestock. Before I knew it, we had expanded our garden, built another coop to raise broiler chickens for meat, and a paddock to begin raising pigs. We began looking at how food was procured, stored, and eaten back when this country was brand new and found so much could be learned from those days. We had made the decision that if we were going to continue to eat meat, we would have to raise and process it ourselves because we could no longer put any meat onto our family’s plates if we didn’t know where it came from and how it was treated during it’s life. We still have a big garden every year, but after many years of learning and building infrastructure, we process all of our own chickens, pork, beef, venison, and fish. I do not have time or the ability to feed this community, but what I do have is knowledge I would love to share, so if you want to know more about how I/we do it, I want to teach you how to feed your family too. I can’t do it for you, but I certainly can teach you how to do it for yourself. 

As for the woodworking, it’s kind of the same deal. I began buying tools to make furniture and never looked back. Eventually I bought a sawmill too so I could source my own woods. Much like food, I hated to think I was part of the problem of these rare and exotic woods being stripped from the world just so I could build a bench or something. We are blessed with abundant, diverse, and beautiful timber in this area and I decided if I needed any woods, I could find something right here to use. My main focus has been cutting boards of all fashion and style as well as dining tables. Everything is built custom and I put my heart and soul into every piece. I love the sense of accomplishment to step back and look at something I’ve built and give it to someone to use and hand down through the generations. Plus, I love telling the story of the tree that gave us all this beautiful piece. It’s all about honoring the materials and the people who will love it for years to come. 

Recently, my friend Jason Grems and I have come to near completion of a project that encapsulates everything I love doing. His home was destroyed in last year’s tornado and he has rebuilt, but we decided to make something unique and special that will be his and only his. I had stumbled across a video of a guy making his own hardwood flooring, so I offered to try this and Jason accepted. We cut down the Green Ash trees (before the beetles could take them) and we milled the trees into lumber, we kiln dried the lumber, we cut/planed/smoothed/tongue-n-groove’d every piece and installed it. The final result is nothing short of beautiful, but even more special is that two friends stood shoulder-to-shoulder and took tragedy and turned it into beauty. We made his new house his home and we loved every second. 

Thanks as always for reading all the way down here. In this trying time, please remember to make sure your neighbors who may need help get what they need. If they need something you can’t help with, reach out for them. This community is so awesome and there are people out there who can help them. The darkest is when the stars shine the brightest. Be a star… Much Love, -Jay Armbrister

Chapter 10: I’ve had fun too…

TLDR: I got paid to scare kids inside the Stull Church one Halloween night and it’s still one of my favorite nights of my career.

So anybody who has lived in Douglas County more than 27 minutes has heard the urban legends about the Stull Church. On Halloween night at midnight, the floor inside the church opens up to expose the 9th gateway to hell…or is it the 7th? How many gateways are there? I know there’s several in various WalMarts throughout the Midwest, but I’m just not sure where the rest are. Either way, some say there is one in Stull, KS…

It’s the early 2000’s and the church is still standing at this point, so the Sheriff’s Office decides to station a deputy at the church for Halloween night and I signed up. I took a folding chair, a clipboard, and a set of night vision goggles. I mean as soon as the sun dropped, the kids started rolling in. Groups of 3 to 8 about every 30 minutes or so. The church itself is on private property and the cemetery you have to walk through to get to the church is private as well, so you are trespassing through the cemetery as well as inside the church, and that’s where the rub with the law comes in. Now, I get that trespassing is trespassing, but in the spirit of the law, these were kids doing the same things I would have been doing at their age, so why not teach them a lesson instead of writing them a ticket or taking them to jail. 

So, I sat just outside the church by a tree and would follow the group inside the church and then scare them, let them catch their breath, get their information, talk to them about trespassing, talk to them about urban legends being a joke, and then send them down the road with a story to tell. I learned quickly that the girls would scream, a few of the boys would scream, but most of the boys just locked up. No breathing…no nothing. 

Close to midnight, I saw the car stop, headlights go out, car doors close, muffled talking getting louder as they got closer. Normally, I’d see them, sneak in behind them and take it from there. Welp, this one went exactly on schedule until I just saw them come out of the trees and one of the girls stops and says, “There’s somebody standing by that tree!” She. Was. Scared. It was barely light enough in the moonlight that I could barely make out their silhouettes, so it makes sense they could see me too and she was staring and pointing right at me. There were 4 or 5 of them and one of the boys told her to quit trying to scare them. I need to mention he said this more to convince himself than anything. She said it again and was frozen like a statue of a young girl who just scared herself more than she anticipated she could. One of the other boys told her there was nobody there and then he said, “fine, I’ll go show you.” He was walking directly at me. I let him get about 10 yards from me and told him that was close enough as I put my flashlight on him. Welp, this was where things got interesting. Hero was frozen in my beam of light, the standing-pointing-girl made some kind of loud beep noise, and she and the others screamed while pivoting on their heels and bolted for the trees. Hero turned out to be a really nice kid, but he had terrible friends. I yelled at them to come out and that I only needed to get their information and they could go. This didn’t work, so I told Hero to yell for his friends and tell them he’d be going to jail if they didn’t come out. (I told him this was just a little white lie, so it was okay). He actually startled me when he screamed like he was trying to warn the Captain of an iceberg ahead. He screamed, “COME ON GUYS, HE’S GONNA TAKE ME TO JAIL IF YOU DON’T COME OUT.” To say he was convincing was an understatement. Now, here’s the heartbreakingly hilarious part. He no more than finished screaming for them when we heard the doors to the car slam shut and the engine roar to life. They screeched out of the parking lot like Satan himself was knocking on the back window. When Hero heard this, his shoulders slumped and he muttered, “I got terrible friends.” Long story short, I gave Hero a ride back to his apartment on 6th street and told him he was brave, but he really needed to rethink his choice in companions when things get serious because they clipped him from the herd in a heartbeat and played every man for themselves without so much as a second thought. 

While I find myself giggling even writing this story, I often wonder what Hero’s version of the story is and the conversation he had with his scaredy-cat friends when he caught up with them. Yep…I’m giggling just picturing it. Oh, and for those of you wondering, at midnight on Halloween, absolutely jack nothing happens inside that little church. Also, it was torn down many years ago, so if Satan needs a chicken exit and chooses Stull, he’s gonna have to kick a pile of rocks out of his way. 

As always, thanks for reading all the way down here. I really wanted to try and bring a little levity into your evening since things just seem so gray right now. If you need help, ask. If you have help to give, offer. If you are lonely, reach out. If you are worried about someone, absolutely reach out. Our society is measured on how we treat each other and right now, I feel so very reassured that we are not as divided as the rest of the world likes to make us out to be. We are a community and we have got to look after the most vulnerable among us.  
One last thing, if you have the means to, please please please support the restaurants and local shops here in our neighborhoods. We should be doing this all the time, but right now is the most crucial time for us to keep our dollars in our community so we have these places when we are able to step back out into the sunshine together. Have a great week and I hope you’re settled in for the long haul. We got a ways to go, but we are ready for it. -Jay

Chapter 12: The Cameron Effect

“(Jay) took a concept and formulated a plan of action to save people’s lives. A commitment of strategic action, education, with whole hearted dedication to prevent devastation to lives. His humility, authenticity, passion and concern were both obvious and effective. This project demonstrated his quality of character, decision making skills with wisdom beyond his years. This project also had a profound impact in our healing process.
We saw him in action, through the crash investigation, throughout the legal proceedings, and then during the presentations of his Cameron Effect Project. Law and justice are not merely his vocation; they are obviously his calling.” -Shelley Freeman 

In the late fall of 2010, I was called out early in the morning to conduct an investigation into a fatality crash that had occurred a few hours prior just north of Lawrence on Hwy 24. This story begins that morning and takes many twists and turns, but the facts are that a young man named Cameron Freeman and three of his friends drove to Lawrence from Lincoln, NE to see a concert at the Granada. On their way home in the wee hours of the morning, the vehicle they were driving was rear-ended and Cameron died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the crash. 

The young man who was driving the other vehicle was also in Lawrence visiting his brother while on leave from the military. Through a series of actions and decisions, he came to be driving a vehicle on that stretch of highway while intoxicated and after striking the vehicle Cameron and his friends were driving, he drove away, only to be stopped a short time later by law enforcement. 

It wasn’t until the driver was facing his sentencing that my involvement took a personal turn. I stood in the courtroom for the sentencing and I heard Cameron’s mother get up and speak about him and how much she loved, cherished, and missed him. After having read the comment section in the Journal World after the article was released, she said she hated all the anger and “vitriol” from the anonymous posters who were leveling such hate and contempt at a young man they did not know and about a situation they did not understand and doing it (in her opinion) in the name of her son. She spoke of wanting positive to come from such a negative situation and she wanted people to remember her son and learn something positive from this tragedy. She also spoke directly to the young man responsible for her son’s death and she forgave him. As a parent myself, I found it deeply touching to see someone’s child taken from them by the act of another yet finding it in themselves to forgive. I wasn’t sure I was capable of that level of compassion, but I was definitely witnessing it. Then it was the judge’s turn and she leveled me right there in that moment. She said she was sitting on the bench that day not only as a judge, but also as a mother and the mother of a son. She said she could see herself in the shoes of the mothers of both young men involved in this deadly and tragic incident. Her emotions were obvious and the gravity of her feelings in that second were palpable. Wholly unprepared, I immediately had a picture of MY mom standing at the podium telling the world how wonderful she thought I was. I also saw her sitting in the row behind me as I stood to face my judgment. I could have been either of those boys and my mom could have been either of those moms. Right there in the back row against the wall of the Division 2 courtroom, I was metaphorically brought to my knees and I had what you’d call “a moment”. 

The young man was sentenced to just short of the maximum allowed by law and had to serve nearly 6 years in prison. His attorney had asked for no jail time based on the fact that he had absolutely zero criminal history. The judge saw fit to hand down this sentence and he never questioned it. It seemed pretty clear that this kid felt guilty and remorseful and was willing to pay for his crime. 

“You find me guilty when true guilt is from within” - James Hetfield

After this, I spoke briefly with Cameron’s parents, Paul and Shelley Freeman, and they thanked us for our work and compassion. I left that day just feeling like there was more to do. I also felt like calling my mom and apologizing for all the things I could have done to her but was lucky enough to have avoided. I had made mistakes, I had found myself in situations where I was faced with decisions and probably picked the wrong one, but lived to tell about it. I was not proud of myself, but I was thankful for what I had and that my mom never had to stand in that courtroom. 

I don’t know how long it was after the sentencing when I realized what I wanted to do. I just felt like this case was a tragedy from every aspect. There was no “bad guy” to explain it all away. I was heart-broken over how far the ripples had run from this and not just the families of these young men involved, but the investigators, the families of the investigators who helped us get back to living, the Judge obviously, the reporters, the witnesses, and anybody else who drove by the makeshift monument erected on the highway for Cameron. Everybody was affected somehow from that singular incident that night. Why not take this story and share it with the group that could possibly benefit most from hearing it… young people and young drivers. 

I took the case and built a story out of it from both Cameron and the driver’s points of view and showed how those two lives came together that night. I called it the “Tragic Intersection of Lives”. This all became a presentation that took about 45 minutes and it was directed at young people who may find themselves in a similar situation hoping they may choose a different path now knowing what the possibilities could be. 

I spoke with Shelly and Paul about my plan and they whole-heartedly supported me. They then told me of their plans to begin The Cameron Effect where they were asking people to do 7 random acts of kindness in the name of their son. They had these little note cards made of some kind of compostable paper with wildflower seeds embedded in them. After doing an act of kindness, you were to write down what you did and the date and then mail it back to them. After it was all over, they buried the cards over an area so flowers would grow the next year. They asked me to come to the kickoff event in Lincoln and give my presentation at the local college to get things going. Over the next year, I gave my presentation all over Kansas and Nebraska to groups of students (and anybody else who wanted to listen) anywhere from 2 to over 750 at one high school. The Freeman Family welcomed me into their home to stay when I would come to Nebraska and treated me like family. 

To this day I only give my presentation once a year and it’s to all the Freshmen who rush a fraternity or sorority at Baker University in Baldwin. They call me every year and I go every year just as I have for probably ten years. Has my presentation and story every stopped someone from driving when they shouldn't? I have no idea. It is impossible to quantify events that never happened. But, what I can say is that I have reached several thousand young people with the message who may have never had these perspectives and there is definitely a chance someone’s life was changed because of it and I’m totally okay with that. 

I tell this story because we find ourselves in a time in history where we have to rely on the others around us to remain positive and fight off the negative that lurks just beneath the surface. People in our neighborhoods and towns are hurting both financially, but also mentally and fighting and arguing does nobody any good. We are all in this together and we will reach the other side as long as we stick together. Stay in when you can, do good always, love all, share what you have, take only what you need, and keep your path true. Let’s talk again next week if not sooner! -Jay

Chapter 13: What is a true leader anyways?

When a man or woman tries to become the top law enforcement officer in your county, that is a position of true leadership. It begs the question; How do you define leadership and what kind of “leader” will you be? I personally define leadership as someone who instills strength and a sense of security in all those who work for and with them, but also is willing to allow people to get out and do things for themselves and allow them to fail (safely) because the best way to learn anything is to struggle to do it at first and then prevail. Once you have failed at and then triumphed over a task, you will always have that skill set. A true leader will let you gain that skill set in a way that you do not fear failure as long as you fail doing what you feel is right and doing your best. 

A great leader creates an environment of open dialogue and mutual respect. People who work for and with you must feel like they can bring a different perspective to any conversation without the fear of rebuke or disrespect. Creating a sense within your sphere where people who work for you want to do right simply because they want to do right for themselves, their community, and for you as the leader. 

I think back to some of the best bosses and leaders I’ve ever worked for and that fear of letting them down was something I simply couldn’t abide by. I’ve never worked for accolades or awards, but just simply for the sense of knowing I did my best and made those around me proud. A ‘good job’ from your hero goes further than any medal or plaque. That deep sense of pride and contentment when you hear you did good from somebody who knows what good looks like is the best compliment in the world. 

I got into Law Enforcement to help those who cannot help themselves. I derive my sense of pride from doing what is right and if I can help somebody through the worst day of their lives, that is what I am here for. A few years ago, I made the determination I had skills to offer our younger employees, so I took my first steps to becoming a leader by becoming a Field Training Officer. I could see that the employees of the Sheriff’s Office deserved a strong and steady leader who is also a compassionate human who can offer true help and respect. I know I am that person. How can I prove it? Ask those who have worked not only for me, but ask those who have worked shoulder-to-shoulder with me. I stand proud in my past, my performance and my ability to back up what I say. And while you are at it, ask other employees of the Sheriff’s Office about ALL the candidates. Ask what it’s like to work for and with each and every one of us. Ask what kind of boss each of us are and have been. And from that, you, as a community member, can decide for yourself if you feel the same as I do and feel that I should be your next Sheriff. 

As much as I hate to toot my own horn, the time has come that I have to. I am a leader. I will never ask someone to do anything I will not do myself. I live to serve and I live to lead and I lead the way I wish to be led. This is all why on August 4th, I hope you and I will take the next step towards me becoming your next Sheriff. -Jay

Chapter 14: It's just what we do...

“The first, and hopefully the last, time I called 911, I was home alone in our new house on 4 acres in rural Douglas County. It was the first warm, sunny, early Spring day after many months of cold and rain. I walked out briefly in my pajamas and flip flops to check on my baby chicks in our outbuilding. That’s when I saw that my 89-year-old neighbor had fallen off his tractor near the waterline of his muddy, shallow pond that is adjacent to our property. The tractor was still running. He was laying lifeless under the tractor, and his head was under the rear wheel. I knew I couldn’t help him on my own. I drove down to the road and went from house to house to get help as I talked, and mostly cussed, to the 911 operator. Unfortunately, no one nearby was home. I was alone and really scared. I drove back to the pond and waited. 

I’ve never felt such a huge sense of relief as I did when I saw a Douglas County Sheriff’s SUV pull up next to me. I felt an even bigger sense of relief when a young, strong, and clearly capable man jumped out of that SUV. I watched in amazement as he ran down to the waters edge, jumped on the tractor and moved it off my neighbor. Somehow, I managed to make it down to both of them, and we waited together until the ambulance arrived. Fortunately my neighbor survived after spending several days in OP Regional trauma center. His family invited me and my husband to his 90th birthday a few months later. We all were grateful that I was home that day. 

Not only did I make lifelong friends with my neighbor and his family, who are also my neighbors, by the way, but I made a new friend that day in Sheriff Jay, as I call him. When the ordeal was over and the ambulance was gone, Jay took the time to take me aside and talk to me about what I had been through. He explained that it was a traumatic event. He said I would feel some strong emotions that I might not expect, even days or months later. Well, of course, as soon as he told me it was okay to cry, I burst into tears. I remember hugging him and feeling his bullet proof vest. It like hugging a whiskey barrel. I had almost forget he was law enforcement. Jay was doing his very dangerous job by answering a 911 call without hesitation, yet he was comforting me and making sure I was okay. 

I will always be grateful to Sheriff Jay for helping me get through that day. The event still brings tears to my eyes, even now, and that’s ok. Over the 3 or so years since we first met, I followed Jay’s career. Sheriff is a natural progression for him. Not only is he an experienced law enforcement officer, he’s a family man, he’s an artist, cares for animals and the environment, and is a truly caring human being. I have no doubt our community will be better off with Jay as our Sheriff. VOTE FOR JAY!”

          --Sarah Sypher, Douglas County Resident

Note: I was so fortunate to not only to be close by, but I have spent several years running tractors and this tractor happened to be one I was very familiar with. This was very fortunate, but Sarah and I worked together to save this gentleman from harm or worse, death. 

In no way does this story make me the person to be the next Sheriff and I recognize that. I know these are simply things that happen in the course of a deputies job, but I want you all see that I care. Not just about a man caught under the tire of his tractor, but some poor neighbor who happened to find him. 
This was a traumatic event for her and I absolutely recognize that. Sarah and I have become friends because of this and I cherish our friendship. I am no hero, but I hope this shows you who I am. -Jay

Chapter 15 (I think): It’s the small things…

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there who work tirelessly but suffer in silence for the advance of your children and family as a whole. I have never been a mother, but I know I would be but a fraction of the man I am were it not for the strength, direction, love, and (well earned) discipline I received from my mom, Cheri. I don’t tell her nearly enough just how much I love and rely on her and I also recognize just how fortunate I have been my whole life to be shown what a strong, driven, yet truly compassionate woman can do to a young boy’s and young man’s life. In my own words, my mom is a stud. She’s funny, she laughs from the bottom of her soul, she loves, she fights, she cares, she quietly suffers while telling me she’s ‘fine’, she cries at the most appropriate times, she barks at the right situations, and knows the difference. Mom… I love you. 

And then there’s the mother of my children. As I type this, Betsy is making her own Mother’s Day supper (because I was politely told to leave the kitchen). She moves about the kitchen with ease, poise, and direction, just as she does in every other situation in her world. She is the steadiest, most honest, most caring human I’ve been afforded the opportunity to meet. On top of that, she loves me and I love her back with every shred of who I am. She and my mom have shown our two daughters what a strong, independent, caring, and loving woman looks like. I’ve tried to instill the fact that my girls do not need a man in their life, but they can be pretty handy from time to time. Their mother does not NEED me, but together we are much stronger than our individual beings. I want them to know how a significant other is supposed to treat them and I also want any potential suitor to know 2nd best is all they will ever be, because nobody, and I mean nobody, will ever love them like their dad. 

As far as a post for the night for you to think about, I have been thinking this week about the word ‘integrity’. I see it used here and there and I place a lot of value on that word. What I really dislike is when it’s handed out with little thought or feeling. C.S. Lewis said something like, Integrity is doing what is right when nobody is looking. In any position of Law Enforcement, your integrity is the backbone of your career. If you have none or just enough to show the public, but not when nobody is looking, then you do not belong in Law Enforcement, period. I am a human…I have made mistakes…heck, I’ve even been disciplined in the line of duty, but I have never done anything malicious or with the intent of hurting another. Just like every award I have been fortunate enough to receive, each learning experience that came in the form of a “talking-to” or a notice that I screwed up, I have earned. I own my mistakes and I know I will make more, but again, that’s part of being human. But, just know that any mistake I make will be because I feel what I did or am doing is in the best interest of this community, the agency and it’s employees, or the world in general. I will not sit here and tell you I am perfect and I will never falter…because I will. I am here to tell you that when I make a mistake no matter large or small, I will admit it, I will do what I can to rectify it, and I will learn from it. That, folks, is a promise. 

Have a great week and kiss your mom if you can. -Jay

Message From Stacy

Tonight’s post will be a little different. Instead of Jay’s Sunday evening chapter showing you who he is and what he stands for, tonight will be a glimpse into who I am and what I believe as Jay’s choice for Undersheriff of Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. 

Jay and I agree on many things and both have a connected vision of what we believe your Sheriff’s Office should be. I believe it should be proactive. This begins with taking an active role in connecting with our community through citizen programs like a Citizen Review Board, Citizen’s Academy, forums and other avenues of being available and accessible. This not only builds trust between us, but understanding as well. Communities need Law Enforcement to keep order and our citizens safe. But Law Enforcement absolutely cannot achieve this goal without your trust and willingness to be a part of it.

I believe a Sheriff’s Office should adapt with the changing times to stay relevant and ahead of trends. We can look to the East and West Coast communities to see what is coming to ours. We saw it with gang violence, the opioid crisis, active shooter incidents and just this past few months Covid-19. Hope is not a plan and under Jay’s leadership, we will have contingency plans for you as our first priority.

As most Sheriff’s Offices around the nation have changed over the years, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is no different. We are no longer the Sheriff’s Office of old. In some ways we are better for it and some ways we are not. The profession has always been dangerous but rewarding. It is a calling, not about individual accolades but a higher purpose. Easy to say, not so easy to explain. As times have changed, the perception of citizens toward Law Enforcement, Law Enforcement toward citizens and the media’s perception of both has been on an out of control roller coaster. As we have grown, we have all grown apart and this is the change I am most uncomfortable with. So many factors from both sides need to be understood and it is time to come to the table and talk about them.

Law Enforcement and Corrections have always had the same core concepts and they will not change. The focus will continue, but how we focus will be as important as we move forward. Under Jay’s leadership, that focus will shape the Sheriff’s Office leadership and the men and women who choose to fulfill these duties.

As you think about the next Sheriff of Douglas County, be assured by voting for Jay Armbrister you will be voting for guidance and leadership to a strong and diverse community. We will both focus on your personal and community safety.

Thanks for letting me share with you tonight since Jay is busy working. I look forward to meeting and talking with you all soon.-Stacy

Week..I've lost count what week it is.

Why is the Office of Sheriff politically associated with a party? 

My short answer is… I don’t understand it, but I can tell you that Kansas Statute requires it. The statute states a candidate requires “a certificate of nomination as such a candidate of a political party”. And thus, Douglas County requires Sheriff’s candidates must be associated with one of the two major parties, Republican and Democrat. A third party candidate or Independent can get onto the ballot, but it requires a separate process with enough signatures from local voters, but I’m not absolutely clear on that process. I am a Democrat. I have been a practicing Democrat for years and I am proud of it. 

The question has been posed to me and I have wondered myself. What is the difference between a Democrat and a Republican Sheriff? The Sheriff does not make law. He or she does not decide or even argue public policy. The Sheriff is held by law to enforce the laws passed by duly elected officials as well as upholding the US Constitution. There is really very little to no ambiguity in this. But with that said, there are certain aspects where the Sheriff can make decisions about where law enforcement resources can be allocated. Perhaps a Republican Sheriff would prefer to carry on the (failed) War on Drugs and arrest any and all possessors or distributors of any and all illegal substances. And maybe a Democratic Sheriff steers clear of arresting simply for possession of low-level drugs (i.e. Marijuana) and moves more towards a citation and release while letting the court systems work out treatment details. A Republican Sheriff may propose that the only dollars spent on a jail should be spent as Warden Norton in Shawshank Redemption says, “More bars, more guards, more walls.” But a Democratic Sheriff may direct funds more towards programs that help inmates get their life back on track and reintegrate them into society so they don’t return to jail. I can see where political ideology might dictate a difference in where tax dollars should be spent. These are the few examples I could see the may separate the two parties when it comes to the Office of Sheriff. 

Again, I do not know why the Office of Sheriff is politically affiliated, but I do know in Douglas County, the Democratic Party is strong. So strong that in fact, some will hide their true being in order to assimilate with the group who carries the most power. I am not a Republican therefore I did not file as a Republican. I am a practicing Democrat, I have fought for democratic issues, and I will continue to do so because it’s who I am. I beg you to ask all candidates and see if they can say the same. Ask when and why their decision was made as to which party they have aligned themselves with on paper and in real life. It’s a question you as a voter deserve to know and now you have my answer. 

This is my first and ONLY post about political affiliation. The office of Sheriff should not be political, but it is, and I am proud to say where I stand. 

Enjoy your Memorial Day and remember why we bow our heads in respect for those who fought for our freedoms and have helped to create and maintain this great country we live in. If you served, thank you. If you lost someone in service to our country, I grieve your loss while also thanking you for your sacrifice as well as letting me and my family wrap ourselves in the freedoms he or she gave their life protecting. Let’s talk again next week… -Jay

Your fury is not misplaced.

As a candidate not only for office, but running to hold the office of Sheriff where I hope to be the top Law Enforcement Officer in our county, it’s a risky move to wade into such a hot topic issue like race and policing. Any campaign manager worth their salt would say, “stay out of it!”. That is not me and I’m not “any candidate” for any old office and I think it would be cowardly not to say what has to be said. We as Law Enforcement have gone too long remaining silent and not outwardly condemning these acts. The time has come to move away from that and call it what it is… Police Violence.


I have seen the pictures and videos from Minneapolis this past week. Like all of you, I felt physically sick watching and listening to it; And then I was furious. I’m furious that things like this continue to happen. I’m furious that not ONE officer on scene told that officer to get off his neck or let him up. I’m furious that all the hard work I’ve put in over my 22 years to do what is right and good has just been erased. I was and still am furious.

But, I find myself in a situation where I don’t feel like my anger belongs in the public conversation. I don’t feel I’ve earned the right to be so pissed. Why? Because I’m a white, middle-aged, male….in the Midwest…and I’m a cop. For centuries, men who looked like me have carried out atrocities in the name of race and religion. I represent the face of oppression and genocide. And now, I wear the uniform that is now associated with violence directed at one particular group of Americans. 

So, here’s what I will say. Your fury is not misplaced. Demanding action is the absolute right thing to do. Gathering so your voices are heard is the very least that should happen. When a group of people say you have hurt them, it is not up to you to say whether or not it is true. It’s definitely is not our place to say how, when, and where they should take the action they believe they need to take to demand change. Their fury is not misplaced. 

I cannot say this would never happen in Douglas County/Lawrence. That is a guarantee no Sheriff or Police Chief should ever make. But what I can promise is that through transparency, open communication, honesty, and respect, I will earn the trust of this community and if/when something like this happens on my watch, you will know that I will not hide behind policies and hidden agendas. I will not use procedures and antiquated systems to hide facts (good or bad) and protect systems instead of people. I will look at the facts of the case and I will tell you when I can provide details. I will then make good on my promise unless I am bound by courts or law to withhold the truth from you. And in that situation, I will fight alongside you to see that the truth wins out. Even if that means an officer or deputy has done wrong or if the officer or deputy did right, you deserve the facts and the truth. I will do all within my power to provide the truth when I am able to. That, is my promise to you. 

And to the officers and deputies who work hard every day in the Sheriff’s Office now, I know this is not you and I know this is not us. I want you to know that I will be there for you until you step away from what is right and just as it appears this officer has done. I will hold you to a very high standard because I trust you, I know and trust your training, and I believe in your heart. But, in return you will have to continue to hold yourself to the extremely high standard this community demands as well as the extremely high standard you should be holding yourself to. We carry tremendous powers to not only relieve people of their liberty and freedom, but of their lives, their loves, and their families, and that is a power I will NEVER take for granted and you shouldn’t either…ever. Nobody hates a bad cop more than a good cop. 

I simply felt compelled to say something on this topic. If I hadn’t, I would not be able to forgive myself. In a later post, I want to talk about the Citizen Review Board I will bring to this agency and to this community. This group will look at citizen complaints as well as low-level use of force situations so the people we serve have a voice in how this agency operates. I am a proponent of equity in all aspects of law enforcement and corrections and I will fight to see that the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is the guiding light in this state moving into the future. 

Respectfully, Lt. Jay T. Armbrister DGCO #S203

PRIDE Month!!

I am proud to show my support for all marginalized persons and the Month of June is Pride Month and I stand in solidarity with those who fear that they cannot be who they truly are. My home is a safe place and I am an ally.

 

Love is LOVE!

I am late in posting this because the timing would have been inappropriate, and still is not optimal. This nation is hurting and People across this country demand to have their voices heard. I did not wish for this or any of my posts to look as if I'm trying to score cheap political points during what has become a cultural crisis for the People of Color in this nation. It is time for us to listen...I'm listening and I hear you. -Jay

Do all lives matter?

I’ll say it. I have no problem saying it. I’ll say it with conviction. I’ll say it with force. I’ll say it in the face of my own. I’ll say it ‘til I can no longer speak. Black Lives Matter. And I have seen over the last few weeks the most perfect response summation to the “All Lives Matter” crowd. “All Lives” cannot matter UNTIL Black Lives Matter. I wish I had been smart and quick enough to come up with that myself, but I did not and I thank the person who did because it’s the perfect response. Nobody is de-valuing the lives of any other group or person. In order for Black Lives to matter, we do not have to kick some other group out of the circle to let them in. As I also read somewhere…this is not pie. You don’t lose your piece so someone else can have it. We want all lives to have equal share in the business of ‘mattering’.

With the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, we find ourselves in a vacuum right now with an environment and passion for change. I would never say that something “good” came from the death of a human, but what I will say is that we have an opportunity to take hold of our future and pivot it in a new direction in the name of George Floyd.

I have heard from a few community members that say right now is not a good time for them to have a Sheriff campaign sign in their yard. I hear what you are saying and that is a very valid feeling, but I feel I have to point this out. On August 4th, there WILL be a new Sheriff. No cultural crisis will stop this process, so I ask you, isn’t now the perfect time to pick the right Sheriff right here in our community? Your vote is the first step towards change.

I stand strong in the fields of community-aided police accountability (through my Citizen’s Review Board) as well as cultural competence for all Law Enforcement. I understand the premise behind “defund the police” and I mostly agree with the premise (reallocation of funds away from policing to social programs), even though I think the term is hugely misleading. We do ask too much of Law Enforcement. Each and every societal problem becomes the problem for the police to deal with. The reason we have come to this point is because this funding was CUT knowing the cops would always be there to take up the slack. The evidence is clear right here in our state and our community. When they shut the mental health state hospitals, we immediately began seeing a larger number of inmates with serious mental health issues spending lots of time in our jail. Cut funding to DCF (formerly SRS) and now we see the police with a huge increase in social welfare issues to try to handle. Refuse to fund housing? You get a historic number of homeless in our community and in our jail. Instead of “Defund the Police”, how about “Re-Fund the Social Programs and Education” and redefine what policing and incarceration in our future America needs to look like.

I also want to make it clear that the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has been at the forefront and many changes that other agencies are only now looking at. We have been nationally recognized for our Re-Entry programs where we help those incarcerated re-integrate back into our community with the resources and the tools to succeed instead of a taxi ride and a court date. Other agencies have come to us so they can model their new programs on what we have been doing for years. And the “8 Can’t Wait” push for policies regarding uses of force and oversight? No problem. Our policies have been ready for these situations for years. Our policy explicitly states that we must take action against any action “detrimental” to the functions of the department or face discipline. Here’s what the policy says: Dereliction of duty is when a supervisor, commander, or employee fails to take immediate action when a violation of our policy or regulations comes to their attention. The Sheriff’s Office believes in policing ourselves and our community.

I want to create an environment for tough conversations to happen as well as gaining enough trust from our most intersectional and marginalized communities to join me in making this change. And I don’t just mean conversations and advisory boards…I mean I want a culturally diverse and representative population of deputies and officers in the Sheriff’s Office. I want all people to feel welcome to join this agency and help us move into the future. I want People of Color, LGBTQIA people, all religious denominations, and all humans to feel like they can come to work for me and do the right things for the right reasons WITH me! With all this said, the safety of the members of this community and the members of the Sheriff’s Office will always be my top priority and I will not sacrifice it. I love my community and I love the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. That’s why my home and my family are here and we will be here for the rest of my life. I want what is best for all and I know I need your help to get there because there is always room for growth and evolution.

So, if you have a neighbor that you worry may feel threatened or disappointed by your support of a candidate for Sheriff or any perceived support for Law Enforcement right now, I urge you to have a conversation with them or ask if I could reach out to them. Maybe I can get my sign in their yard too right next to their Black Lives Matter sign… because both signs point to the future and the changes we need. –Jay

Chapter Something-er-other...;

As much as I’d love to sit here and talk about how awesome my dad was and how proud I hope he is of me, I just don’t have that many Sundays left to get my message out.

It was pointed out at the Candidate forum on Thursday that I do not have my Undersheriff’s name on my sign. I’ll circle back to the forum as a whole, but I want to speak to this for a second.

Stacy Simmons and I came up through this agency shoulder-to-shoulder. She has had my back from the beginning as I hers. But also, she has always been on me about being the leader she knew I could be. She takes no s#it from me. She will not allow me to skate or shirk a task. She would never stand idly by while I make some terrible decision based on limited knowledge. She will hold me accountable in all aspects of this job and that’s why I want her with me. But, she also loves me the way two people do that have chewed the same dirt, cried the same tears, seen the same terrors, and worn the same patch. She makes me a better me and that’s why I asked her to join me.

Yes, she is female. Yes, she is married to her wife and is a proud and vocal member of the LGBTQ community. But that does not define even a fraction of who she is. She has spent a career developing and implementing programs such as the Citizen’s Academy, our new body scanner in the jail, Mentoring programs, Member of the board for CIT (Crisis Intervention Team), developed our corrections academy for new jailers, and was part of the pilot program Bigs in Schools for 3 years following her “little” from 3rd grade until she went to middle school, as well as becoming an executive board member of the National Association of Women in Law Enforcement Executives.

And to end this topic, the Sheriff is the person who has his/her name on EVERY decision and EVERY policy that comes out of the office. Good or bad, the responsibility lies with the Sheriff. I am Jay Armbrister. I am qualified to be your next Sheriff in my own right, I am not my wife. I am not my Undersheriff. I am not my yard signs. I am me and it will be ME who will be your next Sheriff if elected. I want you to see me. I want you to hear me, I want you to see my heart. I want you to know my soul, I want you to know me and what I stand for. I am proud of who I am and Stacy only makes me better at all things I do. I am not just simply my last name. I am a man and I am not an agenda. I will fight tooth and nail for this community and this agency and I have not compromised my moral compass for any aspect of this race, nor will I. I believe in what I believe and I will fight for what I believe in.

And as far as the forum goes last Thursday, I felt very good after it was over. I went into it with bullet points that I wanted to cover and I was able to clearly and concisely get my message and platform out. I spoke from the heart and I hope my passion showed through. I get very excited when I talk about where we can all go as a community and Sheriff’s Office. I look forward to the next one!

And yes, my dad was the most influential man in my life and I think about him every day. He taught me that character is built and not bought. He showed me to comb my hair before Sunday supper, take your hat off inside the house, offer your seat to anyone who needs one, hold the door for EVERYONE, tell your kids how special their mother is to you and how beautiful she is, C’s are passing…”why can’t you just get a damn C Jay ?!?!” He loved me with all his heart and I know that now that I am a parent. He said to me one time that “nobody will ever love you the way your mom and dad do.” I know exactly what that means now and whomever comes to take my daughter’s hand, that person has to be okay with being the second place behind their dad when it comes to who loves them more. -Jay

Chapter: Sunday?

Yep…Let’s do it… Let’s talk Jail Expansion. What is it, what are we going to do, and what can I do as Sheriff? This subject has been at the forefront of conversations for quite some time and it will be in the public conversation for some time moving forward. I might as well wade into it now and make my stance known.

Let me be perfectly clear. I wish we didn’t need a jail in our community…period. I do not want jails in our world. I want to live in a world and community where jails are not a necessity. I’d love nothing more than the jail population to go to zero. I want to close our jail down and make it into a museum of something we “used to need”. But, alas, they have become a necessary evil in the spaces we live in, so we have to do the very best we can with them.

Pipe dreams are so fun to roll around in, but reality dictates otherwise. I worked in the “old jail” that was on the second floor of the current courthouse at 11thand New Hampshire. I transitioned into the “new jail”, which is the current facility, when it opened and I worked in the central control unit the very first day we moved inmates over on September 11th, 1999. That building and I have grown up together sadly.

I feel the need to point out something that I think gets overlooked often when we talk about the Sheriff’s Office and the expansion of the current jail. We as the Sheriff’s Office are part of the Executive Branch. The Douglas County Courts are the Judicial Branch, and the County Commission is our Legislative Branch. We, as the Executive Branch, have absolutely NO say as to who comes to our jail (after an initial arrest if arrested by our agency), how long they stay, or when they are able to leave. This is all within the realm of the Judicial Branch and the Judicial System as a whole. But, with that in mind, Sheriff McGovern saw fit to begin our Re-Entry programs in jail to help combat recidivism, or the same people being booked in for the same reason multiple times over and over again. This program was wildly successful and is now nationally recognized and mimicked across the country. But, with the overcrowding we faced several months ago and for the last few years, the ones who would have benefited most from our programs had to be farmed out to make room in our facility for the more severe cases and individuals with behavioral issues. Basically, we had to send our best inmates away and thus they could not benefit at all from our programs. And the numbers show the success rate began to drop sharply when this happened.

So, how do we get back into the position of doing the most good with the people while we have them? First off…we bring them home. In order to do that, we need the jail population to remain roughly where it is today (125-130ish or lower). How do we do that?...Great question. I have ideas, but so do the great thinkers of this community. We already have great programs set up in the courts, but I honestly feel like some are now hitting their stride and I worry there is little expansion left. This means we need to keep looking for NEW programs, and not just rely on what we already have. And the State has put us behind the proverbial 8ball. We have got to get at least one more District Court Judge. The state controls the funding for this and as we all know, that last governor bankrupted our State and we don’t see them giving us anything right now. Douglas County has even gone so far as asking if we can finance our own full-time judge (we already fund two Pro-Tem Judges) and they have declined the offer. It’s on us to get up to Topeka and start standing on the right desks and shouting that we need help or at least allow us to help ourselves! We also need our prosecutors and judges to begin to look more seriously at some of the programs that have been brought to them. We recently had a new Chief Judge named and I feel very confident that he will do all he can and I look forward very much to working with him. I don’t want to sound like I’m pinning all the blame on the Judicial Branch. In fact, it’s them who took on the programs like the Behavioral Health Court, Drug Court, Women’s Diversion Program, and Pretrial Release, but only recently have these programs really been given the opportunity to spread their wings, but we cannot be satisfied with that. We need more and better programs and I won’t accept “because it’s how we’ve always done it” as an answer any more. Jail Expansion is not happening (in my opinion), so it’s on Us, the community stakeholders, to do the hard work of figuring this thing out. I am the candidate to do this work. I currently work in the jail. I have worked every single post and position in the day-to-day operation of the jail. I have demonstrated leadership, critical thinking, and put myself in a position to become the leader this county needs. I know the jail and I am looking forward to doing the heavy lifting and the hard work of being the person in charge of the jail so we can steer it in a new progressive direction so we can hand it off to the next generation better than we found it. -Jay

I listened and I have learned.

Have you ever used what you thought was a harmless term, only to find out it was offensive to someone or a particular group? I have… During our public forum last evening, I spoke about our practice at the Sheriff’s Office to house inmates in surrounding counties as these inmates having been, “Farmed Out.” This has been common terminology used throughout this agency and other agencies across the state for my entire career since we have been sending inmates out to other counties pretty much that entire time.

I never questioned this term and have used it freely. It’s just a term we have always used. Then, this morning, I read a comment on social media that explained that this term is offensive and is racially charged. The term “farming out” slaves was the practice of one owner sending slaves to another farm to work for another owner. Learning this ripped a hole in me. When we talk about “systemic racism”, it’s things like this that have worked their way into our lexicon without us ever questioning the meaning, yet it has such hateful and ugly roots. I will no longer use it…ever. And on top of that, I will be demanding protocol be set moving forward that this term no longer be used in this agency…ever again. I thank that commenter for pointing this out for me. I will be better and I will do better. -Jay

Law Enforcement in the schools? Yes or no?

After several forums where I have expressed my interest in having a “softer” presence of Law Enforcement officers in our schools, I have been pressed on the issue since then and provided a few different perspectives from citizens. While the forums have been instrumental in showing people who I am, where I come from, and where I hope to go, they make it hard to fully explain a thought or plan in the 60 or 90 second blurb.

I do support the idea of law enforcement officers in the schools at younger ages, such as grade schools. I do think it’s beneficial for littles to see law enforcement in a positive setting with positive interactions, instead of some traumatic situation or negative situation not of their making that could shape their feelings for the rest of their lives. But even more important (selfishly) is that I want a diverse and representative agency where that little girl or boy who doesn’t get to see dolls in the stores or actors on TV that look like them get to see a police officer or deputy that looks like them. We need more than ever for the WHOLE community to buy in to systemic reform in our Criminal Justice systems and having a culturally diverse, culturally competent, and representative agency is key in my opinion. I want everyone to feel like they have a place in the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

I also feel like I need to explain a little further in that I’m not talking about having an officer or deputy stationed in the school. I’m talking about a group of deputies who go and have lunch periodically or help out in the classrooms for different projects and events. I am simply talking about a periodic presence and not occupying the schools.

Two great Ideas my Undersheriff (if elected), Capt. Simmons, has been developing is a kids summer camp as well as a program mirrored off the Explorers Program in Johnson County, where pre-teens and teenagers get to learn more about the criminal justice system while participating in fun activities.

Only in the last several years have I been aware of the term, “School to Prison Pipeline.” I had heard Zack de la Rocha and Rage Against The Machine scream lyrics about such things, but I didn’t realize there was a term that I could educate myself on. "Ain’t it funny how the factory doors close?...’round the time the school doors close?…’round the time that a hundred thousand jail cells opens up to greet you… like the reaper”

I have listened and I have learned what I can about this system, and am not only willing to try and disrupt it, but dismantle it. I am encouraged that our school district and School Superintendent Dr. Lewis in Lawrence is now participating in a “restorative justice” program. Also, the District Attorney’s Office is looking at this model too, so there is hope, and right now, hope is the best we can ask for.

But, I welcome all feedback and perspectives on this because it’s a complex idea and frankly since it involves our youth, I want to do it right. Do not hesitate to reach out to me. We may not see eye to eye, but I value different perspectives on this.

As we move into the future, as the next Sheriff of this county, it will be up to me to see that we become the agency our community demands and deserves. I will be fortunate to be inheriting a great agency with an unbelievably strong staff, but we all agree we have way more to accomplish. Status Quo is not an option. Stagnancy is the same as regression. I’m only 44, so I have many years to offer to this community before retirement. And my goal has always been to hand over this agency to the future leaders better than I found it. –Jay

We are just over 2 weeks away…

If I’ve learned nothing else since filing for this office, it’s that we have an unbelievable community, and I was woefully ignorant as to how many great programs and dedicated public servants we have here. Moving forward, I am ready to do my part while also lifting up those passionate experts in their fields to make this county the community we all demand and deserve.

Running for office has taught me that I am NOT a politician. I am not cut out for this process, but I am pressing on because we are doing the right thing for the right reason. I really do believe I’m the right person to be the next Sheriff. And I’ve been so humbled by all the people who share that opinion. 

Since filing, I have received 200 individual financial contributions from over 185 people right here in our community. We have been so very fortunate that people have not only put their trust in me, they have also shared their hard-earned money with this campaign. I do not take this lightly and I cannot express my gratitude the way I really want to. All I can say is Thank you…

Now, let’s finish this thing! This is where you all come in. You have got to get out and vote. Hopefully you have received your mail-in ballot, but if not, you need to go vote in advance or on the 4th, get to your polling place and GO VOTE! Of course I want your vote, but ultimately, I just want you all to get out and vote no matter who your choice may be. I’ve done about all I can and I’m running out of time. It’s your turn to take it from here. Please please please… Like and Share everything you can here on Facebook. Put a sign in your yard and tell all your neighbors and friends if they wanna be cool like you, they better get their own Armbrister For Sheriff sign. Oh, and… keep your money. We have all we need and have made all the purchases we need to, so I just need your voice and your vote in support now (have you ever heard a candidate tell you we don’t need your money?). Seriously… LET’S DO THIS PEOPLE! -Jay

Only one more Sunday after today…

As we enter the home stretch of this campaign, I find myself in a very strange place. This process has been nothing like I expected. I have learned the many faces that lie just beneath the surface and behind the curtain of public service and those who will do all they can to hold onto that power.

I entered this race to be exactly who I am. I have not sacrificed one iota of my soul or my platform for anybody. I’ve withstood the storms of people taking my words and twisting them to fit their own narratives. I have tried so hard to show not only my strengths and the things I offer, but also my ignorance in certain areas, my need to be educated on things I know little to nothing about, as well as my desire to make the hard changes to a system so much bigger than one person. I have been a living-breathing-human and an open book while others have hidden their true selves from those who they hope to lead.

I am the only candidate that is ready to move this agency and community into a new era of policing. I have the vision and the support of the people I will lead. No other candidate can say that. I have held true to my Democratic values and have been clear that I look to lift other voices up instead of shouting down any other perspectives. I have learned we have so many strong and dedicated stakeholders who are trying to do the very best they can with the resources they have and if I can do something to help them, I am the candidate to do that. It’s what I do…I help people.

This community deserves so much more. Let’s not settle for status quo. LIKE, SHARE, but most importantly VOTE by August 4th. -Jay

Have you seen our financial report?

I’m just so damn proud of all of you! More so, I am deeply proud of HOW we have done what we have done. We raised over $21,000 and a huge majority of it was small contributions. We had over 200 individual contributions not including the in-kind help we received. Humbled. To. Tears.

I do not have a Campaign Manager. My treasurer is just that, the treasurer. She took care of all the financials and reports. She did not call one person to solicit money. My “squad” has consisted of three of the strongest women I know outside of my mother. My wife, Betsy, my Undersheriff-select, Stacy, and her wife, Toni. This tiny group has met every Sunday evening for the last 6 months to eat supper and talk about what we need to do next. We decided long ago that we were going to show the human side of our campaign and not hide anything. I have demanded from the beginning that you see me as I am, warts and all, since it is ME you will be voting for in less than a week. We have held true to that at every turn and win or lose, we did it the right way and I regret nothing. I have always been so in awe of the raw determination and strength women possess. If they want something done, they get it done. If they see some one who needs lifted up, they lift them up. My mother was a very strong, yet loving woman, and I have been so fortunate to have these three in my hip pocket during this process in addition to my mom. Their sheer tenacity and determination pushes me to yet-unknown heights. They have made me the best version of me I have met so far and I will not fail them…or you. In a predominantly male world that is Law Enforcement, the time has come and I look forward to being the champion for all groups, and especially women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and all marginalized persons. The era of white male patriarchy has run it’s course and I’m ready to be a part of the change that gives us ALL equal footing in this community and this world.

I have not paid one cent to any marketing agencies or firms. I have not called one single person to ask them to donate money to me. I have not called anybody that I don’t personally know to ask them to put a sign in their yard. Again, we have held true to our core values and have done ALL of this ourselves.

If you see a name on my contribution list, it’s because they chose to send my campaign their hard-earned money without me asking or even knowing they were sending it. Same for signs. You won’t see my signs at rental properties, in front of shelled-out businesses, or anything of the like. Each sign represents a person who requested a sign for their yard or business and I am very very proud of that.

I feel strongly that we will prevail on Tuesday because we are doing the right thing the right way. I just simply cannot thank you all enough for believing in me and what it is we are trying to do. This campaign is to elect me, but it is all of us who will be needed to make the changes we demand and deserve. I am so excited to be your next Sheriff. -Jay

Paid for by Jay Armbrister for Sheriff, Treasurer Josie Flory