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AIR FORCE RETIREE SAYS HE WILL RUN FOR SHERIFF

He is the fourth to join the race against Bob White - and the first independent.

Richard Welch, retired from a career in the U.S. Air Force, plans to file papers this week to run for sheriff.

Welch, 55, would become the first independent in a growing field of candidates for the job currently held by Republican Sheriff Bob White.

Welch said he spent his Air Force career as a financial officer handling millions of dollars and was directly responsible for 650 troops. He said he ran covert operations out of Egypt and worked on antidrug efforts in Bolivia. He said he has a master's degree in business administration and is working toward a doctorate in business management from Walden University, an online school.

Welch said Wednesday he thinks White has abused his position and has not been a careful steward of tax dollars. He criticized White's $35,000 purchase of a Chevrolet Tahoe sport utility vehicle bought with agency money, as well as the employment of Scott Gattuso, a deputy who collected his salary for more than a year while he was on leave and being investigated for forgery.

"He just does what he wants to do," Welch said of White.

White, seeking a third term, faces a primary challenge from retired Lt. Robert Sullivan, who headed the agency's vice and narcotics unit. Former Capt. Kim Bogart, whom White fired during leadership changes in 2001, has filed on the Democratic side. Probation officer Jeff Deremer has yet to file papers but announced he also will run as a Democrat.

If elected, Welch said he would step up traffic enforcement, which he said would lead to an overall reduction in crime. He also cited deputies' morale and a leaner budget as concerns.

Welch said he thinks he'll need about $10,000 to run his campaign - and he plans to fund it mostly on his own.

"I don't need the job and I don't need the money," Welch said. "I just need to get that guy out of office."

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