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GOP PRIMARY TO DECIDE NEXT SHERIFF IN UINTAH

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The winner of the primary in the race for Uintah County Sheriff will be the new sheriff. The two Republican contenders, both Vernal police officers, are finalists in the race because no Democratic candidate has filed.

Incumbent sheriff Lloyd Meacham sought re-election but failed to win the Republican nomination after pleading guilty earlier this year to two misdemeanor counts of falsification or alteration of government records in connection with hours he charged to the Forest Service to patrol forest land.Three felony counts of making profit from or misusing public money were dismissed. Meacham continues to serve as sheriff pending the outcome of disciplinary action by the Utah Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training.

The man who was narrowly defeated by Meacham in the 1990 election, former sheriff Drew C. Christiansen, said he decided to run for sheriff again "because of encouragement from a lot of good people." Christiansen served as sheriff from 1987 through 1990. He was defeated in the 1990 election by 174 votes.

After his failed re-election bid, Christiansen went to work for the Vernal City Police Department. He feels his four years of experience as sheriff would be a great asset if elected. "I have learned many things about the functions of the sheriff and feel confident that I can direct the sheriff's department in a way that will benefit the county in a positive way."

Christiansen said encroaching juvenile problems deserve top priority. "One of the new areas of concern in the county is our youth problem - gangs and related violence, drugs and property crimes."

To curb this type of activity, Christiansen would seek public support and involvement.

"Law enforcement by itself can't control this problem. It will take the effort of the people of the county working with law enforcement, but it can be done."

Christiansen began his law enforcement career in 1983 as a Uintah County jailer. The following year he became certified by Peace Office Standards and Training and was assigned to patrol duty in the sheriff's department.

Fellow Vernal police officer Lt. Rick Hawkins claims 15 years of law enforcement experience and holds an associate degree in police science. He has served on an interagency Child Abuse Task Force, and has been in charge of crimes against persons for Vernal police. He is acting as the first Uintah Basin Regional Medical Examiner, a position he was appointed to by the State Medical Examiner.

Hawkins has a four-fold political platform. In it, he calls for the implementation of a zero-tolerance program in the schools to deal more effectively with the problem of drugs, weapons and violence. He would form a citizen advisory board made up of a cross-section of the county to maintain communication with area residents.

Reform of juvenile justice is also high on Hawkins' list of priorities. If elected, he pledges to work toward improving the justice system to deal more effectively with troubled youth. This would include the formation of specific youth programs.

"I have been involved with youth programs in the area all my life and will continue to do so. I will ask for input from youth organizations and work closely with them to prevent problems from getting started."