Sites and Kincaid talked about their visions for the sheriff’s office, its budget and gun control during the hour-long debate at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax. More than 120 people showed up to hear the candidates out.
The two Democrats are competing for the party’s nomination after former Sheriff Stan Barry retired at the beginning of July.
Both Sites and Kincaid are veterans of the sheriff’s office. Kincaid has served 26 years, coming into the office in 1987. That’s more than Sites, who came onto the force in 1995.
But Sites is serving as sheriff until a new one is elected in November – he was sworn into the position July 1.
Sites’ new position was a key talking point during Wednesday’s debate, which was hosted by Fairfax County Young Democrats.
Though he’s only been sheriff for a little more than two weeks, Sites said he has already implemented changes that would benefit the office, including freeing up money used on a leadership consultant. He said he is also committed to examining pay fairness and how officers get promoted.
Sites wants the sheriff’s office to focus on its three main functions: running the county’s jail, performing security at the courthouse and serving civil process. The sheriff’s office shouldn’t be getting involved in broader law-enforcement duties, he said.
“We need to focus on our jobs,” he said.
Kincaid said she’s focused on those functions as well, but that she wanted to move the office “forward” to improve performance.
“As the largest sheriff’s office in Virginia, we should be the role model for the Commonwealth,” she said.
That would include working with businesses and the mental health community to improve programs for county inmates and residents with disorders.
Both candidates supported President Barack Obama’s position to expand background checks and place a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The sheriff’s office has historically processed applications and performed background checks for people who want clearance to buy machine guns and silencers, Sites said.
But Sites said he put a halt on processing those applications when he took office July 1.
“I don’t believe that these weapons have any part in our community,” he said. “I can’t stop the law … but I can make sure that I don’t sign off on these.”
Kincaid said she too supported background checks and an assault weapons ban.
“If want to own a gun to keep yourself safe, I’m not sure that you need an arsenal or weapons of that magnitude to do so,” she said.
The candidates differed on the office’s budget from the county – Kincaid thought the sheriff’s office needed more money from supervisors, while Sites said it could operate effectively with what it got.
“I do not believe our budget is sufficient, and it hasn’t been for many years,” Kincaid said. She said she understood that money was tight, but that fairer pay for officers needed to be a priority.
Sites has worked on the budget for the sheriff’s office, and he said the budget was getting the job done.
“Sure, everybody would like to have more money, but we have to look at and understand the times that we are in,” he said.
Kincaid said she would reconsider a leadership consultant at the office who sits offers training and sits in on meetings with commanders, but Sites said he was already working on that as the new sheriff.
Both Sites and Kincaid have extensive backgrounds working with Fairfax County's more vulnerable residents.
Until recently, Sites served as chair of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, which organizes human services for residents with substance abuse disorders, as well as intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Kincaid has served on the governing board of the county's Partnership to End Homelessness. She has been endorsed by the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, as well as members of the Fairfax County School Board.
She has also been endorsed by public safety unions, including SEIU Virginia 512, Fairfax Deputy Sheriffs Union, and the Fairfax County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics-Local 2068.
Sites has been endorsed by the Fairfax County Coalition of Police.
A nominee will be chosen on Tuesday, July 23 in a caucus held at Woodson in the auditorium. Registered voters in either Fairfax County or Fairfax City are eligible to attend the July 23 caucus with check-in beginning at 6:30 pm.