Joel Howard.PNG

Joel Howard 

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With the Aug. 9 primaries fast approaching, Vermont News & Media sent a questionnaire out to candidates asking for their qualifications, how they will address important issues and challenges going forward, and their thoughts on Vermont traditions that should be preserved. Their responses will be published over the next three weeks.

Joel Howard, candidate for Bennington County Sheriff

What qualifications make you the best candidate for this office?

I would like to explain my qualifications that would make me the best choice for this position. My experience includes public service roles, such as chief of the Pownal Valley Fire Department for seven years; Pownal town constable for two years before I was hired by Sheriff Schmidt, and coordinator of Emergency Management for Pownal.

I have significant experience in law enforcement, with my 16 years at the Bennington County Sheriff’s Department, working my way up through the ranks, from patrol deputy, to sergeant, staff sergeant and currently lieutenant in charge of the patrol division.

My law enforcement training includes a degree in criminal justice from Columbia Southern University; an FBI Leadership Trilogy award; Department of Transportation motor vehicle enforcement certification; federal DEA drug interdiction and investigation training; K-9 handler training, as well as multiple National Incident Management System certifications, and Leadership Development training from Granite State Police Career Counseling.

What are the three most important issues or challenges going forward and how would you address them?

Within our department, the three most important challenges are funding, recruitment and training. I will meet with all of our contract towns to reassure them that we are a professional, trained, and approachable department, as well as meeting with other towns in the county to make a contact proposal.

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I will also seek additional grants for community relations, school resource officers. To accomplish this, we need to recruit more effectively. I acknowledge there is a shortage of personnel in all law enforcement levels and within our department, from recruitment, retention, compensation and benefits. Having the confidence of our contract towns and new contracts will aid in our ability to have a more effective recruitment and retention program.

Quality training for all deputies is paramount. There are mandatory trainings for deputies that include use of force, domestic violence, non-bias policing, first aid and firearms, as well as other outside trainings that we have had in the past and will continue to host in the future.

My goal is to make all deputies effective, trained, approachable, and professional. I want to make improvements at all levels of my department because there is always room to improve, and no room to settle with a good-enough attitude.

What Vermont traditions do we need to preserve in the Green Mountain State?

There are a lot of uncertainties in the world today, and living here in the Green Mountain State, I would like to see Vermont’s tradition of freedom and unity remain a priority.

I will work to maintain safety, freedom, and unity, in my community with a professionally trained department. I have, and will stand for, the civil rights of all.

More information is available at

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email


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