VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Note: For equal-time purposes, a random number generator was used to determine whether the incumbent or the other candidate would be mentioned first in our election sit-down series. The new candidate will be featured first in all of the races covered in the series.

The role of county sheriff is an important one, and it’s a role that Aaron Loudermilk said he has wanted to run for for two decades.

“I knew at some point that I would in fact run for sheriff,” Loudermilk said. “I feel like now is the time to do that. You know, there’s been a lot of issues in recent years, especially as it relates to the jail.”

Loudermilk, in his role as President of Vigo County Council, recently proposed a solution to the jail budget issue.

“I’d introduced an ordinance to pay the jail off 10 years early,” Loudermilk said. “As a county council we agreed to do that. The great thing about that, it allows us to pay the jail off 10 years early, it also allows us to save $62 million that we’re not taking from the taxpayers while at the same time you eliminate a portion of the income tax, so .25% of an income tax is now eliminated.”

Sheriff John Plasse, Loudermilk’s opponent, said he gives the Vigo County Commissioners and Vigo County Council credit for the initial plans for the jail, but that he has worked since being elected in 2018 to make sure the design process fits the needs of inmates going forward.

Plasse highlighted some of the programming at the new county jail that aims to reduce reincarceration rates in the area.

“Currently we don’t have dedicated classrooms at the old jail,” Plasse said. “This jail we do, and we’re going to do more programming, keep bringing people in to work with inmates, and our goal is to hopefully not have them re-offend and come back.”

Plasse said he has plans if re-elected to move forward with a partnership with Ivy Tech Community College to help get inmates certified in mechanic work. The partnership is already in the works, but was put on hold due to the pandemic and some staffing shortages. Plasse said two deputies have been hired to patrol neighborhoods and help keep the community safe.

“Now we’re fully staffed,” Plasse said. “Once we get the inmates here, we’re looking forward to start that up with Ivy Tech and get the inmates a certificate, ASC certificate so they can go out and be a mechanic.”

Sheriff Plasse is also hoping to get VCSO accredited in the future, a process he said will add a level of professionalism.

Loudermilk, who also has law enforcement experience as a Captain in the Support Services Division of the Terre Haute Police Department, approached his campaign with fiscal decisions in mind.

“The Sheriff’s Office is one of the biggest parts of a county budget and within the Sheriff’s Office budget is the jail budget,” Loudermilk said. “And for every jailer that we had to budget for in 2023, it’s $88,000. I have a plan with staffing and looking for a cooperative relationship with Indiana State University, with their criminology program, to eliminate the need of some of those full-time jailers, change the staffing schedule and the requirements for the staffing and the days off.”

Loudermilk pointed to his role in county government as experience that will help him lead VCSO if elected.

“Being a county council member, I understand there’s a lot of needs within county government and it’s very difficult to reach all those needs and you have to be mindful of that,” Loudermilk said. “So in being mindful of the needs of the rest of the county, you need to figure out ways to make your dollars stretch more as a sheriff and get more out of that dollar and be more efficient in how you approach your leadership.”

Plasse addressed his pancreatic cancer diagnosis earlier this year, sharing his appreciation for the community’s support and ensuring voters that he is active in his role and will continue to be if re-elected.

“I just want to make sure everyone knows that I was elected to do this job and I’m still doing it even though I’m battling an illness,” Plasse said. “Hopefully soon, that will be behind me and I’m looking forward to being cancer free in 2023.”

Plasse and Loudermilk face off on November 8.