Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed announced last week that he intends to run for Missouri’s 155th District House of Representative seat during the 2020 election. Reed’s current term as sheriff, his second, ends at the end of 2020. The Representative seat is currently held by Wasola resident Karla Eslinger, who has announced she intends to run for the 33rd District Senate seat that senator Mike Cunningham will be vacating due to reaching the eight-year term limit.
In response to Reed’s announcement, current Ozark County Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Curtis Dobbs says he intends to run for the sheriff’s job that Reed will vacate.
Reed says his desire to run for the Missouri House of Representatives seat came from his own frustrations as he’s watched things unfold over the years.
“I’ve been beating my head against the wall with Jefferson City,” Reed told the Times Monday. “I’m just not happy with how things are done. I think they need common folks with common sense inside making these laws. I’ve been making a lot of noise, but I’m just one voice. I want to bring the voices of the entire 155th district with me to make a difference.”
Reed says he hopes the citizens of the 155th District, which includes Ozark and Howell Counties, as well as part of Taney County, will trust him to be that voice of reason.
“I’ve been a Republican my whole life. I’m a strong Christian, and I’m 100 percent pro-life,” he said. “I’ve run my office, my whole career since June 5, 1984, on integrity and professionalism inside the departments I’ve worked in, and I think that same integrity needs to go to Jefferson City.”
Reed graduated from West Plains High School and began his career as a law enforcement officer in 1984 with the Howell County Sheriff’s Department; he continued working in law enforcement in Howell County until he came to Ozark County in 2011.
He was hired by the West Plains Police Department in 1988 as a road officer. He was promoted to shift commander, detective and later chief detective while working at the department over a five-year span. He returned to the Howell County Sheriff’s office in 1993 when then-sheriff Bill Shepherd asked him to become his chief deputy. He worked under Shepherd until 2011, when then-Ozark County Sheriff Raymond Pace asked him to transfer to Ozark County as the chief deputy here.
“Raymond told me he was going to retire, and he asked me to run for sheriff after he left,” Reed said. “So I did.”
He was elected in 2012, beating out opponents Lee Bearden, Dale Schofield and Butch Winslow. Reed ran unopposed in 2016 for his second term as sheriff, which ends Dec. 31, 2020.
He currently lives in Nottinghill, and he says he intends to remain an Ozark County resident. Reed’s daughter, Amanda Reed, serves as a juvenile officer in West Plains, and his son, Brandon Reed, is an information technology technician with the City of Branson. He has one grandson, Liam, with whom he is very close.
Under Reed’s direction, the sheriff’s department has increased personnel to employ a total of eight full-time deputies in addition to the sheriff. Reed also implemented a Greene County prisoner exchange program that is estimated to bring in an additional $240,000 a year, and he also obtained a used, 12-person inmate transportation van from Greene County for a greatly discounted price.
Reed says plans are also currently underway to transition dispatch communications with deputies and other emergency responders from analog to digital.
“We’re trying to bring the department into the 21st century,” Reed said.
Reed said his priorities as representative, if elected, will include stopping what he calls “catch-and-release” criminal programs, amending bond reform and bringing harsher punishments to persistent criminal offenders.
“I’m all for rehabilitation, but there comes a time when you have to say enough is enough,” Reed said.
He says he is also interested in standing up for rural Missouri.
“The laws that are getting passed are benefitting the metropolitan areas, and unfortunately that means Ozark County, Douglas County, Taney County – these smaller counties – are the ones having to pay the price for it,” he said.
Reed says he’s been particularly frustrated that some politicians (but not those currently representing Ozark County) admit to voting on bills without reading them or doing much research on their own. Reed says he promises he will research everything before him before he votes.
“I’ve always been transparent to all the citizens I serve. That means making myself available to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I want to carry that on to Jefferson City,” he said. “I think it’s important to be transparent and to get people back involved in the law-making process.”
Reed says, if elected, he will be taking a pay cut from his job as sheriff.
“You don’t get into this type of work for the money,” he said. “You get into it in order to make a difference. I think I can make that difference. I love Ozark County, and I love the citizens I serve. I want to continue serving. I just want to do it in a little different capacity, but I still want to do good for these people.”
Ozark County Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Curtis Dobbs says he decided earlier this year to run for sheriff after Reed and Ozark County Chief Deputy Winston Collins asked him if he’d be interested in taking the lead after Reed’s departure.
Dobbs said he was honored when Reed and Collins approached him.
“I know it’s a big job,” Dobbs said. “I was humbled that they thought I was up to the task – and I’m up to the task.”
Dobbs also graduated from West Plains High School and has deep roots in Ozark County.
“I have generations of family from here, many who are buried in Gainesville and Thornfield,” he said. “We have roots from as far back as the Civil War in Ozark County.”
After several years in law enforcement, Dobbs worked for 16 years in the private sector as a licensed real estate broker. “I worked with government contracts with rural development and housing, HUD contracts, that sort of thing,” Dobbs said.
In 2014, Reed asked Dobbs to return to his law enforcement roots and join the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy.
“I jumped at the chance,” Dobbs said. “My heart was always in law enforcement. I had been watching the newspaper and seeing what was going on under his leadership. He was making a difference. He was making changes, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
As corporal, Dobbs has worked closely with Reed and Collins on several large-scale investigations, including multiple murder cases, child sex crimes, drug busts and assaults.
“I’ve always felt like whatever you do in life, you don’t give it 100 percent. You give it 110 percent – on everything. Those cases, that’s what I’m about, right there. I want to stand between the citizens of this county and those who want to cause harm to the citizens of this county. Somebody needs to be there. That thin blue line is real.”
Dobbs and Shelia, his wife of 34 years, recently built a home in Pontiac. He has two sons, Chris Dobbs and Richard Dobbs, who work in the construction business. His daughter, Whitley Dobbs Clark, is currently the security officer at Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains.
Whitley and her husband Corey Clark, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and who currently works for the Howell County Sheriff’s Office, are both enrolled in the Missouri Sheriff’s Academy and are looking forward to careers in law enforcement.
“If I am elected sheriff, it will mean the least amount of turnover in the office. I can move into Darrin’s position, and Winston can remain the chief deputy,” Dobbs said. “We’ll just need to hire someone for my position. Then we can keep moving in the direction that Sheriff Reed has led us in after all these years.”
Dobbs said he’s been honored to serve as corporal under Reed, and he hates to see the sheriff retire.
“I’ll be honest. If he said right now he’ll stay as the next-term sheriff, I’d be happy,” Dobbs said. “But he isn’t, and we need to keep things going in the right direction. So I’m honored to carry that on.”
Dobbs says he brings a set of skills to the position from his experience owning his own business.
“I understand what a budget means and how financing works,” he said. “Sheriff Reed never went over on his budget, and I intend to stay under budget as well. I also have 16 years’ worth of leadership, entrepreneurship and administrative training that I bring to the department.”
Dobbs says he looks forward to continuing the Greene County prisoner exchange program and working on the cases he and his fellow officers are currently investigating.
“This county is too small to have an administrative sheriff sitting behind a desk,” he said. “You can believe I’ll be out there 110 percent of the time giving my all to this county.”