Both candidates for sheriff who hail from opposite ends of Graves County have stressed their experience and leadership to voters in their campaigns leading up to Tuesday's election.

Interim Sheriff Jon Hayden, a native of Fancy Farm, is the Democrat nominee for the office. Jason Clark, from Lynnville, is the Republican nominee. The winner in the Nov. 5 election will serve the remainder of the late Sheriff Dewayne Redmon's term, which is for roughly three years.

Redmon was re-elected to a third term in November 2018 but died in February of natural causes. Hayden was appointed by Graves County Judge-Executive Jesse Perry to serve as interim sheriff until an election for the office could be held.

"I felt like if my home county was asking me, I felt a duty and obligation to do that," Hayden said of accepting the interim appointment.

Hayden has spent his entire career in law enforcement, beginning in 1988 with the Princeton Police Department. He was a full-time drug enforcement officer with the Paducah Police Department before eventually joining the McCracken County Sheriff's Office. In 2005, he won the first of three terms as McCracken sheriff.

Clark also started in law enforcement with stints with the Mayfield and Paducah police departments before joining the U.S. Marine Corps and serving in Iraq as an infantry platoon sergeant. Following his tour overseas, he returned to Paducah Police then joined the ranks of the Kentucky State Police at Post 1 in Hickory.

He has also served as a civilian contractor with the U.S. State Department, and campaigned as a write-in candidate in the previous Graves sheriff's race from Iraq. In that race, against Redmon and five other write-ins, Clark finished second with 2,695 votes.

"From 8,300 miles away, to be honest, I wasn't expecting the votes I got," Clark said. "But obviously, it impacted pretty well in Graves County."

Clark has worked to convey his leadership and combat experience, as well as critical thinking.

"It's one thing to come to a scene after it happened and another to come to a scene during," he said. "My background in law enforcement, my background in military and leadership positions, being a combat Marine, you can't get more closer to leadership than that."

Clark's campaign strategy has focused on social media messaging about transparency, funding needed for law enforcement and educating himself of matters such as a planned 911 regional center in Marshall County.

"I believe people are wanting some youthful change," he said.

In talking with people, Clark said drug issues are a major theme. Hayden stressed proactive, regional drug enforcement efforts due to a number of major crimes, which are tied to drug use and trafficking, thefts and burglaries.

Stepping into the sheriff's position this past spring, Hayden said his priorities were to stabilize the department and get its business end running, and also evaluate how things were operating.

He said if elected, plans include changing how some investigative work is handled and also address the salary discrepancy for hiring and retention of personnel.

"I know what the problems are here in Mayfield and Graves County," Hayden said. "With my experience and all the training I've had and the relationships I have, I know I can be effective in this position."

Eric Walker is the news editor for The Mayfield Messenger. He has also worked as a staff writer for the Messenger, editor for the Murray Ledger & Times, and in public relations. He is married with two sons.