Originally Published: September 3, 2008 12:10 a.m.
When the first numbers came in Tuesday night, incumbent Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh's face broke into a wide grin while a circle of friends surrounding him erupted in cheers and congratulations.
With 69 percent of the votes tallied, Waugh had garnered a little more than 72 percent.
"If it stays at 72 (percent), I'll be thrilled," Waugh said.
His opponent, Ernie Cox, had earned almost 28 percent of the votes.
Waugh's solid lead was expected to hold throughout the night.
An obviously disappointed Cox stood in the parking lot of the Yavapai County Administration Building where officials were handing out Tuesday's results as fast as they came in.
"Well, they got what they wanted," Cox said of the voters. "They must have wanted a man from Las Vegas."
He was referring to the fact that Waugh moved to Prescott from Las Vegas in 1997.
Asked what was next for him if the voting percentages held and he lost the race, Cox said, "I don't know what I'm going to do."
He said he ran against Waugh because he felt that the morale of the department's employees was low and that the integrity of the department had deteriorated under Waugh's administration.
Asked to explain what he meant, Cox would say only that he had talked to road deputies and detention officers as well as county employees who had quit the Sheriff's Office.
He said he also was concerned that people in the county were getting help with their complaints by telephone instead of having a deputy talk to them in person.
"You can change that," Cox said. "All you have to do is get (the deputies) to work."
Waugh said all of his employees "have just been really working hard."
"Morale in the sheriff's department is excellent," Waugh countered. "We've accomplished a lot of things in the past few years."
Waugh, who has been sheriff since January 2005, said he started an employee/management committee made up of 10 people from different Sheriff's Office divisions that talk directly to him about any problems employees may have.
And, he added, "When it comes to integrity, we're at the top of the heap. We have one of the best internal investigation systems in the state. We don't pass anything off. If a complaint comes in, we take every one of them seriously."
Since he has been sheriff, Waugh said, response times have decreased by 30 percent, crime is down, arrests are up and YCSO has deported more than 2,500 illegal immigrants.
Waugh said he has 141 certified officers to cover an 8,200-square-mile county.
"The biggest problem is we have limited resources," Waugh said, adding that the issue is something he has been fighting since his administration began and that he will continue to grapple with.
Contact the reporter at email@example.com