AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsThe challengers are Steve Perez, a former county supervisor and one-time deputy who narrowly was defeated for sheriff by Wimbish in 2002; Donny Youngblood, a former Sheriff’s Department commander; Jim Raul “J.R.” Rodriquez, Larry Studer and Chevy Garza, all sergeants with the department. All the challengers are faulting Wimbish for not addressing a manpower shortage of about 170 positions, sworn and civilian, throughout the department. “We have a lack of true leadership and staff,” Rodriguez said. “To carry vacancies when we have money is a slap in the face.” Wimbish said when he became sheriff, poor economic conditions thwarted staffing efforts. The county’s budget situation has improved, allowing positions to be filled, he said. “Things are starting to fall into place,” Wimbish said. Each of the challengers said he would bolster the number of deputies on the street in the near term through internal changes and he would push for expedited filling of vacancies. “I’m the only candidate with a plan to add 200 deputies at no cost to the taxpayer,” Studer said. The majority of those additional deputies, about 160, would come by implementing a deferred retirement option plan in which deputies could agree to push back their retirements while their pensions would go into an interest-earning account. Studer wants to convert 32 detention deputy positions to civilian posts and put those deputies on the street. Wimbish criticized Studer’s plan, saying he doesn’t account for other expenses associated with fielding deputies, such as providing patrol cars and equipment. Youngblood, the former commander of the Mojave substation, noted that the Rosamond substation is short three deputies. “Carrying three vacancies is absurd. Why did we wait until now?” Youngblood said. “Is it a coincidence we’re spending more on deputies in an election year?” Perez is also critical of the department’s low staffing levels. Perez said he has the necessary management experience to help the department recover. “The sheriff’s not merely a law enforcement officer. The sheriff has to have experience as an administrator,” Perez said. “He has to know how to handle budgets and work with other departments. I have the necessary experience to develop the plan and implement the plan.” Youngblood is touting his experience, which includes 30 years in the department before retiring and his endorsement by former Sheriff Carl Sparks. “You can’t buy experience. You have to live it,” Youngblood said. Challengers raised questions not only about Wimbish’s management, but about his integrity as well. Garza cited a 2005 incident in which Wimbish intervened on behalf of a friend to let him out of jail early after he had been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. “You can’t live by a double standard,” Garza said. “You don’t embarrass the department by letting someone out early.” Of that incident, Wimbish said he did nothing wrong and that state law allows for someone arrested in those situations to be released to a responsible adult. Rodriguez said if elected, he would call for an immediate audit of the department’s budget. Rodriguez said he believes there are funds not properly utilized that could fund additional deputies. [email protected] (661) 267-5743160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! ROSAMOND – Candidates for Kern County sheriff are taking aim at incumbent Mack Wimbish, challenging his integrity and management skills and placing the blame for the department’s manpower shortage on his shoulders. Wimbish is defending his record, saying it has taken much of his first term to repair damage from years of tight budgets and hiring freezes. “We are on the road to recovery,” Wimbish said. “These things don’t repair themselves overnight.” Wimbish, who is seeking a second term as sheriff, is running in the June 6 primary against five challengers, all officers or former officers in his department, including a former Kern County supervisor.