For nine years, Chuck Cave has been acting as sheriff of Howard County -- at least when the elected one isn't there.
So it only made sense to the 61-year-old chief deputy sheriff, who helped Sheriff Michael A. Chiuchiolo clean up the department eight years ago, to run for the sheriff's seat.
"Mike and I have worked very closely," said Cave, a Republican and former Maryland state trooper for 28 years. "When he's not here, I am the sheriff.
"It's almost like changing offices," he said, as he motioned toward Chiuchiolo's office next door. "I'd be moving my office from here to there."
In something of an odd twist in the race, Cave worked as a state trooper in the early 1960s under the command of his Democratic opponent, G. Russell Walters. Walters, 80, of North Laurel, served as a state trooper for 22 years and was Howard County police chief for six years in the 1970s.
Walters' decision to enter the race shocked many in law enforcement -- as well as leaders in his own Democratic Party -- who see Cave as a shoo-in. Some political leaders and law enforcement officers have questioned Walters' ability to be sheriff and whether his 23 years out of the field might hurt the department.
In the September primary, where more Democrats turned out than Republicans, Walters got almost 1,500 more votes than Cave.
Walters has said he is able to "make the tough decisions" in running the office, despite some difficulty in defining its duties.
Cave is taking his competition seriously. With less than two weeks until the general election Nov. 3, he has launched two television ads emphasizing his experience as chief deputy sheriff and the alternative-sentencing programs he helped design.
He has raised about $15,000 in two bowling fund-raisers, spent about $2,000 on TV ads and attended three candidates forums.
In one TV ad, Chiuchiolo says: " I know that [Cave] alone has the present-day experience to carry this office into the next century." Cave uses his campaign slogan, "the tradition continues," to show his strong ties to Chiuchiolo, who has been credited with establishing a sense of professionalism and respect for the department that was in financial ruin and mismanaged when he took office.
The sheriff's office, which has 50 employees and an annual budget of nearly $2 million, is responsible for providing security for the Circuit Court, serving more than 20,000 court and landlord/tenant papers and criminal warrants, and transporting about 800 prisoners to other jurisdictions each year.
Since Chiuchiolo took office, he -- with the help of Cave -- has been responsible for getting the department its own fleet of reliable vehicles and establishing longer-term projects to deal with juvenile offenders.
The sheriff's office has created a domestic violence unit that will soon start helping the police serve a growing number of protective orders from District Court. This will allow police to deal with other crimes, law enforcement officials say.
To address a growing number of first-time juvenile offenders, the sheriff's office started a community service program two years ago as an alternative to sentencing. The $196,000 initiative has become a model for others across the country, experts say, and has branched into a program for parents and youths to work on raising children's self-esteem and keeping them out of the criminal justice system.
Cave said that among the department's accomplishments were a sheriff's deputy being named the state's Deputy of the Year by the National Sheriff's Association in 1993 and a 10-year-old prison transport van winning first place this month at a national sheriff vehicle competition.
"There was low morale and a lack of responsibility when we came in here," Cave said. "This office was a joke. When [Chiuchiolo] said he knew he could fix it, I told him if he needed my help, I'd come work for him.
"I'm proud of the things we've done here and I hope to continue," Cave said.
Pointing to the three murders in Howard County this year -- which have all been connected to domestic violence -- Cave says he hopes to expand the domestic violence unit of the sheriff's office and provide deputies with more sensitivity training.
Raised near Cumberland, Cave said he decided to enter law enforcement because a local state trooper impressed him in his youth. In an interview in his office, he talked about how he watched and admired a trooper standing outside the firehouse.
"I hated eating in the school cafeteria, so I would go to this hot dog joint and every day I would see this state trooper standing out there," said Cave, as Mozart's music -- Cave's favorite -- played in the background. "[The trooper] was a commanding figure. He was stern and businesslike all the time. He was the picture of what a law enforcement officer should be."
After spending three years in the Army as a surgical technician, Cave became a state trooper in 1963 and retired as a detective sergeant. He joined the sheriff's office in 1990.
For years, Cave worked out of the Maryland State Police detachment in Ellicott City, which is now defunct, while Chiuchiolo served as a county policeman. Some nights, the two were the only law enforcement officers patrolling the county.
"We ran as a team," Chiuchiolo said of his 1990 race. "He has served as my right arm these past eight years. He's a gentleman and a class act. He is well-qualified to take my place."
Pub Date: 10/21/98