Liberty Hangout recently had the privilege of interviewing Brent West, a Libertarian seeking to become the Sheriff of Wood County, West Virginia. Please enjoy our recent email exchange with Mr. West.
For those who are unfamiliar with you, could you tell us a bit about yourself and why you are running for Sheriff in Wood County, West Virginia?
My name is Brent West. I am an at-large member of the executive committee of the Libertarian Party of WV. My first foray into politics was in 2012. I ran a 5 day write-in campaign for mayor of Vienna, WV. One of the candidates passed away 6 days before the election, and they opened up the process for write-in candidates 5 days before the election. I am a husband and father of two amazing children. I have a 5 year old daughter, Isabelle, an 8 month old son, Avery “AJ”, and a wife of almost 8 years, Holly. I take a look around my city and county and see the heroin epidemic overtake the place I grew up in. The office of sheriff is extremely important, and I could not let it be decided in a closed primary. The republicans were the only party to put candidates in the primary. I took this as an opportunity to make changes and educate the voters of my county about Libertarianism. I am fighting for ending the drug war, treatment versus incarceration, strengthening the relationship with deputies and the community. My county currently spends $250,000 a month on housing inmates. We could save the county millions per year by ending the drug war, legalizing marijuana and treating substance abuse as the medical issue it is.
A number of people in West Virginia may be unfamiliar with libertarian philosophy. What would you tell them is the number one reason to elect a libertarian to be their county sheriff?
I explain libertarianism to people as this, I do not care what you put in your body or do to your private property, as long as it does not affect my life or property in anyway. I will follow the Constitution and Bill of Rights and fight to preserve it. I will forcibly remove federal agents who come into my county and violate these documents.
Who are you running against in this election, and why should the citizens of Wood County vote for you over your competitor?
I am running against a life long Police officer. Steve Stephens is my republican challenger. Mr. Stephens was chief of police in Vienna, WV from 2005-2010. During his tenure, crime rates doubled and within three years after he left crime rates dropped to pre 2005 levels. He is currently in charge of the home confinement program with the Sheriff’s department. I am raising my children here and will fight for my county. I am not of retirement age. I am dedicated to continuing to raise my children in this county. I appreciate the fact Mr. Stephens has served his community to the best of his ability, however it is time to turn over the leadership to the younger generation with new ideas. The office of Sheriff in WV is an administrative position. I have served as a business manager for 12 years and have owned my own business. I have the skills to keep budgets in line and creative ways to stretch the limited budget given to the Sheriff’s office. Mr. Stephens, a lifelong police officer, does not mean he is the best man for the job. I have the skills to lead and manage this office. I have proved I am a strong successful leader.
A lot of Constitutionalists are still hesitant to cast a vote for anyone other than a Republican. Why do you think small government conservatives should instead vote for you if they want to shrink the state?
I am the only candidate speaking about shrinking the state. I am the only candidate who supports legalization and pushes for treatment over incarceration. I believe the Constitution and Bill of Rights are still relevant to this day. I will protect the citizens of Wood County from anyone who tries to undermine these documents. As the highest enforcer of the law, I will protect the sanctity of these documents. I will not fold to pressure from the political elite of the area. I am beholden to no one. I serve the residents only. I am proposing to end DUI checkpoints and calling them the scam that they are. They are designed to pad the pockets of the sheriff’s office and not stop drunk drivers on the road. If the purpose was to stop drunk driving then they would pick better times than 8-11pm on a weekend.
If elected, what are three things you hope to accomplish?
Push for legalization of marijuana. Ending the drug war, and treating substance abuse as the medical disorder it is. Holding the deputies to a higher standard while they work for me.
As advocates of a decentralized society, we’re particularly excited to see a libertarian run for county sheriff to try to make change at the local level. Since some of our readers may be interested in engaging in the political process themselves, what would you recommend to them? Since liberty is seemingly lost at the federal level, do you think that we need to instead invest more time in fighting the battles at the local level?
I encourage everyone to become involved. If you do not see yourself running for office, then find a local candidate and do everything you can to help them. Help in anyway and every way possible. Become involved in county and state LP affiliates. Attend city council meetings, county commission meetings or school board meetings.
I believe winning the fight at the federal level is still a ways off. The best opportunity we have of making change is running for local office, city, county, or state house and senate seats. We can show people how great the libertarian philosophies work and this will help when it comes to running for Statewide and Federal offices. If we can make meaningful change at the local level that will influence people to look to Libertarian’s for larger offices. We have many libertarians running for US House and US Senate against 3 or more people. These are not realistic races to win. Find opportunities to run against someone unopposed. If we would focus more on these opportunities this will help us achieve these large offices. The federal offices require a lot of money to run, if we would push this money into local elections imagine the impact we could have. If I could obtain $3,000 in fundraising in the next month I believe I will win. This is half the amount of a Federal candidate’s filing fee.
Since the federal government is continually reaching its arms into matters they should have no control over, do you believe it would be prudent to promote the use of state nullification to allow the citizens of Wood County to govern themselves as they see fit?
I personally believe local citizens know what their area needs. We know our struggles and our successes. We do not need government officials from other parts of the state passing laws and regulations that directly affect those of us who live here. Counties in WV are diverse and a one size fits all approach does not work. Some counties rely on coal, others manufacturing, others are transportation hubs. County level laws or ordinances should always trump state and federal law.
Where can people go to learn more about your campaign?
If there’s anything else you could say to the voters in Wood County, what would you like to tell them?
I have the passion and drive to lead our community forward. The current county level leadership has been in place for decades, it is time to allow younger faces with new ideas to lead. I promise I will protect each of you as if you were my family. I want us all to succeed in life and give a helping hand to those who need it. All I ask is for 4 years to show you how great liberty is, if you do not like personal freedom you can vote tyranny back in office.
I would like to thank Brent for taking the time to speak with us, and urge our followers to help spread word of his campaign. Mr. West has a real shot at winning his election and can use all the help he can get. If we want to move forward towards a free society, we must start by fighting back at the local level.