GREENFIELD — As Mike Shepherd campaigned for re-election over the past few weeks, he said he consistently heard from voters that he was doing a fine job as sheriff.
And so the Republican incumbent approached the primary election with guarded optimism, an optimism that grew with each updated set of vote tallies posted Tuesday night at the Hancock County Courthouse Annex.
Shepherd took the lead over challenger Donnie Munden early in the race as the votes trickled in. The final total left Shepherd with 4,916 votes and Munden with 3,537.
“I’ve always had a lot of positive comments,” Shepherd said. “I’ve been told, really throughout the term, that I’m doing a good job.”
Munden, a shift commander in the department, had challenged his boss’s priorities, saying the department needs more drug enforcement to combat overdose deaths in the county.
Munden promised voters a drug task force if elected; Shepherd said he would rather see more officers out on patrol than dedicate an entire team to drug investigations.
After Munden raised concerns about drug enforcement, Shepherd did allow that he would dedicate one officer to drug investigations once the department’s latest hires are fully trained.
Tuesday, Shepherd said he believes his philosophy resonated with voters.
“I heard some feedback,” he said. “I think at least some of the people like that idea, (officers out patrolling and) protecting them.”
Munden, after learning of his defeat, said he was glad the campaign started a dialogue about the department’s needs.
“I brought what I thought were the pertinent issues to light,” he said.
Munden said he’d be happy to weigh in about drug enforcement going forward should the sheriff be willing to continue the conversation.
“If he wants my input, I’d be glad to give it,” he said. “I respect that he’s the sheriff.”
Shepherd watched the tallies come in Tuesday surrounded by friends and supporters wearing matching red shirts.
Brent Leonard, whose father served as Shepherd’s campaign manager, said he would be glad to see Shepherd get the chance to continue his tenure at the head of the department. That will depend, of course, on whether the Democrats slate a candidate to challenge Shepherd in November.
“I think what Mike’s done in office has been pure positive,” Leonard said. “Four more years, I think it’s good for the county.”
Shepherd supporter Alissa Fox said the sheriff holds a special place in her heart because of how kindly he treated her family when her husband, Fortville Officer Matt Fox, was shot in the line of duty and injured in 2012.
Shepherd was among the first to arrive at the hospital and make sure Fox’s family members, including the couple’s young daughter, had everything they needed.
“I fell in love with him then,” said Fox, who was at the annex Tuesday night with her husband, who made a full recovery.
While Shepherd’s challenger was also his subordinate, both men said Tuesday they expect it will be business as usual going forward.
Munden added that he would consider running again in four years. If Shepherd is elected in November, he will at that time have served two consecutive terms, the limit for Indiana sheriffs.