If its not broken, don’t fix it.
That could be the theme of Barton County Sheriff Greg Armstrong’s write-in campaign to retain his job in the Nov. 6 general election. His bid is based on what he sees as a public mandate.
It could also be the response of Barton County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Brian J. Bellendir who defeated Armstrong in the Aug. 6 Republican primary. He believes the August election results were the true voices of county residents.
“I’ve been mulling it over since the primary,” Armstrong said in announcing his intentions Tuesday. He put off making a decision, but was finally swayed by what he called nearly daily requests from voters to run.
“I’ve had people from all over the county ask me to do a write-in,” he said. “They’ve expressed how happy they were with how the job was being done and didn’t want to see it change.”
After some soul searching, he tossed his hat into the ring once again. “It was their faith in me and in the department that convinced me.”
However,“I think the voters had spoken in the Republican primary,” Bellendir said. “It’s too bad he cannot accept the results of that election.”
Bellendir questions Armstrong’s write-in effort. “Greg called me on the night of the primary to concede the election.”
Now, he’s left to wonder what changed and why Armstrong “reneged on his statement.”
“We are confident the results of the primary will be repeated,” Bellendir said of the upcoming vote. “We represent the Republican party in the election.”
Bellendir defeated incumbent Armstrong and former BCSO Lt. Richard W. Unrein to win the Republican primary for sheriff. Bellendir garnered 2,262 votes, or 46.94 percent. Armstrong had 37.6 percent with 1,812 votes, and Unrein trailed with 15.46 percent, 745 votes.
No Democrat is running for the sheriff’s office. So, until Armstrong announced his plans, Bellendir was running unopposed in November.
At the time of the primary, another employee at the sheriff’s office, detention officer Warren Peterson, attempted to gather 666 petition signatures so he could run as an Independent candidate in November, but fell short and missed the deadline.
A native of Seneca, Armstrong campaigned on 30 years of law enforcement experience, starting with the Garden City Police Department. He retired from the Kansas Highway Patrol after 28 years being stationed in Great Bend.
He defeated Sheriff Buck Causey as an Independent candidate in the 2008 election.
As for another term, Armstrong said he would work to continue improving drug enforcement. Other priorities would be continued balancing of funding and manpower. “You have to make the most you possibly can out of what you’ve got.”
Armstrong cited accomplishments such as cutting the department’s budget while updating equipment, increased rural patrols and improved inter-agency cooperation. He also said he has maintained a candidacy based on professionalism, choosing not to cast stones, false hoods or run a smear campaign.
Bellendir never attacked his opponents directly, but often commented during his campaign, “This isn’t my retirement job. I’m not a part-time officer from somewhere; I’m a career sheriff’s officer.”
Bellendir was born and raised in Barton County, graduated from Great Bend High School in 1980 and has spent most of his life here.
He has been in law enforcement in Barton County for more than 25 years. He began his service as a reserve deputy and was promoted to reserve sergeant. He later earned full active duty status as a road deputy and soon advanced to road sergeant. After a brief stint away from the county, he returned as sergeant/administrator of the Barton County Jail. For the past six years, he has been the road patrol lieutenant.
Bellendir encourages the citizens of Barton County to contact him with concerns or suggestions for improving the sheriff’s department. He plans to work with the Barton County Commissioners and other civic agencies and organizations to create a culture of cooperation, trust and mutual respect.