Two Republican candidates are running for the GOP nomination in this year's race for Harford County sheriff, which will bring the eventual opportunity to challenge incumbent two-term Sheriff Jesse Bane, who is a Democrat.
The top Republican vote-getter in the June 24 primary will challenge Bane in the November general election, county Elections Director Kevin Keene said.
Bane and the GOP nominee could have company, however, if unaffiliated candidate Bob Peck by August gets about 1,500 signatures on a petition to be on the general election ballot, Keene said.
Jeff Gahler - Republican
Jeff Gahler, 49, of Forest Hill, is making his second run for sheriff. He ran as a Republican against Bane in the 2010 general election, and was narrowly defeated, 47,347 votes to 44,261.
The retired 28-year veteran of the Maryland State Police said people get into law enforcement because "they want to be in a job, in a profession, where they can make a difference in people's lives and in public safety."
"The sheriff's office is the epitome of that ability," Gahler said in a recent interview.
Gahler said that, if elected sheriff; said he would improve the county's detention center, which he said is in "abysmal shape," put more deputies on the road and restore the morale of the agency's personnel, which he claims is at its lowest point in 25 years.
"I am supportive of returning positions to patrol and giving the men and women on the road the resources they need," he said.
Gahler also attacked how the jail is being run under Bane's leadership – he noted the facility has been without a warden for more than a year, and that nine people have died while in custody during Bane's tenure.
"He's failed to appoint appropriate leadership up there," he said of the sheriff.
Gahler retired from the State Police in 2012; his time with the agency included serving as commander of the Bel Air Barrack and commander of the Northern Troop, overseeing troopers in Carroll, Cecil and Harford counties.
He is an operating partner with Advanced Leadership Consortium of Bel Air, a leadership training and development and business consulting firm. He also teaches law enforcement-related classes at his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University.
He has a bachelor's degree in leadership and management and a master's in management, both from Hopkins, and an associate's in criminal justice from Harford Community College.
He is married with two daughters.
John Ryan - Republican
John Ryan, 47, of Darlington, is a 22-year veteran of the Harford County Sheriff's Office. He has been a deputy since 1992, and he is a deputy first class assigned to patrol in the Northern Precinct in Jarrettsville.
"I work hard," he said in an interview Tuesday. "I give you 210 percent and I make sure that the decisions I make benefit the agency and the citizens of Harford County and not just myself."
Ryan is a 1984 graduate of Joppatowne High School. After high school he began working for the corporate division of Martin State Airport in Middle River, where he spent five years as a corporate pilot flying Beechcraft King Air airplanes.
He joined the Bel Air Police Department in 1989 as a patrol officer. He joined the Sheriff's Office in 1992. In addition to serving as a patrol deputy, Ryan has been a member of the CART, or Community Action Response Team, assigned to high-crime areas, and the Community Policing Unit.
Ryan worked with members of the community to teach them about public safety during his time in community policing.
He said it has been a "lifelong dream" to run for sheriff.
Ryan declined to give a detailed critique of the current management of the Sheriff's Office, but he stressed he would put more deputies on the road if elected sheriff and "put more people in the leadership positions that would assist in helping the agency move forward."
"My main goal is to put more police officers out on the road, and to provide a safer environment for the community in which we live," he said.
Ryan is also the sole proprietor of Captain John's Seafood, a seafood carryout business. He recently closed the store's location at Route 136 and Route 1 in Darlington as he searches for a new space.
He is married with two daughters.
Sheriff Jesse Bane - Democrat
Jesse Bane, 65, is running for his third consecutive term as Harford County sheriff. He was elected in 2006 and again in 2010. He is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
He has been with the Sheriff's Office since 1972. He was a major when he retired in 2006 to run for the top office.
Bane said in a recent interview that he was 6 years old when his family moved to Harford County from Schenectady, N.Y.
His family lived in Havre de Grace briefly, and he grew up in Dublin. He is a graduate of Bel Air High School and earned his bachelor's degree in criminology from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Bane is married; he and his wife do not have any children.
Bane said he began working for the Harford Sheriff's Office shortly after college. His career has included work as a road deputy, in courts security and in the county jail.
He has served in some of the top leadership positions, including as undersheriff, or second-in-command, during the 1980s.
"I don't think my work is done here," Bane said. "I still think I can have an impact on the crime rate and on our traffic issues and I think I can move the agency forward."
Regarding the state of the county's detention center, Bane said a candidate has been selected to serve as warden, and that person – whom he did not name – will take over once he has completed the process of retiring from his current employer.
He also disputed the nine deaths; he said his opponents are using incorrect numbers, and that "they know nothing about the details surrounding those deaths."
Bane said sheriff's office officials have "taken a great deal of measures over the last seven years" to improve conditions at the jail.
Bob Peck - unaffiliated
Bob Peck, 51, of Jarrettsville, is a retired Baltimore County Police Department detective with more than 20 years of service with that agency.
He has also served as director of safety and security, as well as auxiliary programs and transportation for The Park School in Baltimore County, where he volunteered for 12 years.
He said during a recent interview that he became a full-time employee of the school after he retired from the Baltimore County Police Department in 2004. Peck resigned from the school in April to run for sheriff.
Peck is a graduate of North Harford High School and he has attended Essex and Catonsville Community Colleges, plus Towson University.
He is married with three children and one grandchild.
Peck said he has to get about 1,700 signatures on his petition to be on the general election ballot – enough to ensure he'll make the 1,500 minimum, and he has obtained about 300 so far.
"The majority of my campaigning, of course, will be after the primary, so I'm focusing on just gearing up for my campaign, getting the message out," he said.