A former undersheriff is challenging the incumbent who fired him in the general election for Nez Perce County sheriff.

Two-term Sheriff Joe Rodriguez is seeking a third term against his former chief deputy, Bryce Scrimsher, in a contest between two conservative rivals.

Rodriguez is running as a Republican and Scrimsher is running as an independent in the Nov. 3 general election.

“I want to continue building on the eight years,” Rodriguez said. “There are many accomplishments still to achieve.”

Rodriguez hopes to work with Lewiston and the county on a more efficient central dispatch that he says will save taxpayer dollars and raise revenues, though it will cost a lot up front. The dispatch would be run by an outside entity, and he would like to see it incorporate other agencies within Idaho’s Region 2.

Scrimsher wants to bring “dignity back to the office,” telling his supporters he will bring “what’s good and just” to the office. Scrimsher was fired by Rodriguez in November 2018. Scrimsher claimed Rodriguez fired him in retaliation for Scrimsher leading a sheriff’s employee through the process of filing a sexual harassment claim against the sheriff in 2018 that led to a $68,500 settlement payout by Nez Perce County’s insurer this spring.

“I care deeply about the people within the department and the people they serve,” Scrimsher said. “I bring transparency, proven fiscal responsibility, strong leadership, honesty, integrity and trust. I will make citizens feel safe in their community.

Scrimsher has 20 years of law enforcement experience with the Lewiston Police Department, the sheriff’s office and Idaho State Police. Rodriguez has worked in law enforcement with the Nez Perce Tribal Police and the sheriff’s office since 2001.

Rodriguez points to his accomplishments of getting a narcotic and apprehension K-9, which has helped the sheriff’s office work with the Quad Cities Drug Task Force to get drugs off the street.

“I want to continue being that voice for the people we serve and protect,” Rodriguez said, noting he has been able to reallocate $2.4 million in tax money in seven years.

Rodriguez said he has been able to reallocate the money by spending it wisely, but not by taking away from employees or services.

“We’re doing the same job, but spending the money wisely,” he said.

Rodriguez says he is transparent with the people and anyone can see everything the office has done in the last seven years. The sheriff’s office publishes an annual report on its website.

“This job isn’t about me as a person, it is about this community. I just hold this position,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve proven myself to the community over the past seven years and I’m going to continue to build on what I’ve already done.”

Rodriguez said he plans to provide better equipment and training over the next four years and continue to build the community’s trust. He wants the public to know they can call him directly at (208) 750-2088, ext. 4710.

“Everybody is treated the same within the agency and within the community,” Rodriguez said. “I’m the voice for everybody, not just a select few.”

Scrimsher said his No. 1 focus will be protecting everyone’s constitutional rights.

“The sheriff is a duly elected official with constitutional obligations, and you deserve a professional who will uphold those obligations,” Scrimsher said.

Employee morale and retention are priorities for Scrimsher if he is elected.

“We must work on officer and employee retention immediately,” Scrimsher said. “Nez Perce County spends a tremendous amount of money on hiring and training talented officers and employees. When they leave, as many have, those finite dollars go out the door with them.”

Scrimsher bases his leadership on a “service leadership foundation,” and he promised to support the employees of the sheriff’s office.

“I believe that means flipping the structure on its head,” Scrimsher said, noting the safety, health and job satisfaction of the sheriff’s office employees are a priority for him. “Service leadership drives a more effective, efficient and trustworthy law enforcement agency.”

Scrimsher said Rodriguez’s claims of fiscal responsibility are nothing more than “a shell game with budgets and line items.” Scrimsher said he plans to restore trust through accountability, good fiscal management and partnership.

“The sheriff isn’t a job; it’s a constitutional office that must be accountable,” Scrimsher said. “It’s time to bring back leadership accountability, manage funds wisely and transparently. At present, these things are sorely lacking.”

Scrimsher is a proponent of community policing and he wants deputies to become “more enmeshed with their communities.” He believes that will enhance the ability of each deputy to serve the public better.

Scrimsher wants the sheriff’s office to take a more active role in drug enforcement and criminal investigations.

“The drugs making their way to north central Idaho, such as heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamines, get scarier and deadlier each year, and this department must be on the front lines of the battle,” Scrimsher said. “This all brings many crimes that need to be investigated and Nez Perce County is the only larger law enforcement organization in the region without personnel dedicated to working investigations.”

Joe Rodriguez

Office seeking: Nez Perce County sheriff

Party Affiliation: Republican

Age: 52 (turns 53 before election)

Education: high school, Plains, Mont.; automotive trade school, Denver

Work Experience: U.S. Navy, 1986 aviation boatswain’s mate (medical discharge); Ford master mechanic; Nez Perce Tribal Police 2001-2003; Nez Perce County Sheriff’s Office 2003-present.

Previous elected experience: Nez Perce County Sheriff 2012-present

Family: wife Julie, married eight years; two sons, Joshua, 25, and Matthew, 23.

Bryce Scrimsher

Office seeking: Nez Perce County sheriff

Party Affiliation: independent

Age: 47

Education: Associate of Applied Science in mid-management, Lewis Clark State College

Previous Elected Experience: Culdesac School Board, vice chairman, current, 10 years

Family: wife Mindy, married 28 years; daughter Genny Hiebert, 23; son Tyson Scrimsher, 20.

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