ALBERTVILLE, Ala. — Incumbent Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims said he looks forward to serving another four years in office, but first he’ll have to garner more votes Tuesday than challenger Anthony Nunnelley.
Sims, the Republican candidate to be featured on Marshall County voters’ General Election ballot Tuesday, was first elected sheriff in 2018, when he unseated then-Sheriff Scott Walls in the Republican Primary Election. Sims had no opposition in the General Election during that cycle.
Before becoming sheriff, Sims worked as Etowah County Drug Enforcement Unit Deputy Commander, and several other law enforcement positions prior.
Sims said he was thankful for his campaign team’s efforts, and he is confident that a great voter turnout Tuesday would favor in his direction.
“We’ve been working really hard,” Sims said. “It’s been an honor to serve over the last four years, we’ve had a lot of accomplishments … I feel really good about [the election].
“I just ask the people of Marshall County to look at my record,” he added, “because my record showing our accomplishments and the work we’ve been able to do these last four years should speak for itself.”
Sims does, however, have a Democrat challenger in this year’s election cycle in Nunnelley. Nunnelley, a 30-year law enforcement veteran, has been a jailer, dispatcher, patrolman, deputy, investigator (narcotics and property), assistant chief, and chief of police in both the town of Cleveland and Grant. He retired as police chief of Grant in 2020.
Nunnelley also voiced confidence in his campaign and his chances to unseat Sims.
“I’m proud of what the Nunnelley For Sheriff campaign has accomplished since I decided to challenge the status quo 10 months ago,” he said. “Voters want and deserve professionalism and a 21st century approach to law enforcement. Experienced leadership will make a big difference. We’re confident that the citizens will be the big winners if they fill in the oval next to my name on their ballots. Even if they vote straight ticket, they can fill in the oval beside my name and it will not change their other selections.”
Questions for the candidates
Q: First thing to address when elected or reelected?
Sims: In my next term, one of my top priorities include the construction of a permanent training facility and firing range for out employees. The firing range is operational, and we are currently working on classroom space for training and to house the citizens firearm training. I also want to add more deputies down the road. We’ve added three for this next fiscal year, thanks to the Commission, but we could certainly use more. I’d also like to add another K-9 unit. A long-term goal is to start a Street Crime Unit to respond to certain types of problematic areas focusing on, for example, a string of thefts or drug issues. This unit would be in addition to our drug unit and they would work together in some instances. A Street Crime Unit is something other counties around the state have already, and it’s something we should’ve had years ago.
Nunnelley: The sheriff’s No. 1 focus must be our citizens, all of our citizens. That includes solving problems and concerns like the trafficking of drugs including fentanyl and the thefts used to fuel those addictions. Working with addicts to help them end those addictions is key. Marshall County can and must do better for all of our citizens.
Q: What is the biggest issue facing Marshall County and why? How will you address it?
Nunnelley: “Leadership – Not Politics” was my overall campaign message because it was apparent that this has been lacking in the job. A lot of people think that the job of sheriff is to make policy. Many have sought to use it for political promotion. I am a law enforcement officer with 30 years of experience in patrol, investigation, narcotics investigation, and community policing experience. I have a degree in criminal justice, and I am working on a degree in psychology because mental health is an important part of community policing these days. My training is extensive. I have the leadership experience and can turn unprofessional behavior that results from a lack of leadership experience into something that solves problems and benefits every member of the community regardless of political affiliation or any other background demographic. I will be a working sheriff. You will see me on the job, and you will know the men and women who serve you. I intend to address problems by doing the job, being on the job, and remembering that it involves showing others how to lead as professionals by example.
Sims: Drugs. And I know that may sound like the easy answer, but it’s true. Getting drugs off the streets has always been a priority of mine. When I took office, we only had one guy assigned to the Marshall County Drug Task Force. I found a way to add two more deputies to the task force for a total of three narcotic agents. As part of their duties, two of those agents are also serving on the FBI North Alabama Safe Street Task Force, which I was member of for many years in my career. Also, the other agent is assigned to the Region F State Drug Task Force. These partnerships with our state and federal partners allow them the ability to share resources to get drugs off our streets, prosecute major cases on the federal level, overtime reimbursement, and paid training. But, right now we’re seeing more drugs, and a lot of that is due to availability. I’ve never seen the ease and flow of drugs into our country like we have today, and much of that is out of our control, happening at our country’s border. As result, we’re seeing some of the largest seizures in history happening today. Over fiscal year 2022 in Marshall County, we made 634 felony cases made; approximately 22 pounds of methamphetamine was seized and taken off the streets; approximately 40 pounds of marijuana was seized; and approximately one pound of heroin/fentanyl was seized. Over the next four years, we’ll continue to work hard to get drugs off our streets and arrest and convict drug traffickers and drug distributors in Marshall County.
Q: Why should voters elect you?
Sims: When I was elected for my first term, I had a set of goals that I wanted to accomplish before the end of my term. I’m proud to say that my administration has accomplished those goals even while dealing with one of our biggest challenges, Covid-19. We’ve brought the jail back up to federal and state standards, up to code and cleaned it up. We’ve successfully worked to establish 14 school resource officers, so every school would have a dedicated SRO. With the help of legislators, we established a local law to provide for the feeding of inmates so any sheriff in Marshall County from now on will not be able to profit from state food money. We also improved the required minimum training standards for deputies, correction officers and all employees by passage of local law by legislators. We also reestablished Project Lifesaver to assist families who care for other family members with cognitive disorders and children with autism. We’ve also been active within the community, supporting and expanding watch programs, and we will continue to remain active and building on our deputy-community relationship. It has been and honor to serve the people of Marshall County as your sheriff, and I humbly ask for your vote and support to serve another four years.
Nunnelley: Better law enforcement and peacekeeping is better for everyone. We have to work together in this community to solve problems and not just place blame. We need to listen to the citizens, work with the incarcerated to build a life that stops the cycle and be a part of every community in this county every day and not once every four years. The choice is simple. Vote Anthony Nunnelley for Sheriff for a better Marshall County.
Political pundits often point to campaign fundraising as an indicator of how an election will turn out.
As of Oct. 27, state records show the Sims campaign reportedly received $32,034.20 in monetary contributions and $1,961.32 in non-monetary contributions. Nunnelley’s campaign had only received $8,785 in total contributions but also had $3,000 listed as “other receipts.” While Nunnelley has spent more than $9,600 throughout the campaign, Sims has surpassed $21,000 in total spending.
In the only other contested local race, Republican Cody W. Nugent seeks another four years as Marshall County’s coroner. He is being challenged by Democrat Nell Hannon.
Per state records, Nugent has received $9,000 in campaign contributions and spent $5,815.85. Hannon had not filed any campaign contributions or spending as of Oct. 27.
Uncontested races in Marshall, DeKalb, Etowah
Though uncontested, several other local offices will be featured on the ballot in Marshall, DeKalb and Etowah counties.
-James Hutcheson (R)
Commission, District 1
-Ronny Shumate (R)
Commission, District 4
-Joey Baker (R)
-Anthony Nunnelley (D)
-Phil Sims (R)
-Nell Hannon (D)
-Cody W. Nugent (R)
-Cindy S. Wigley (R)
Board of Education, Place 1
-Laura Byars (R)
Board of Education, Place 4
-Mark Rains (R)
Circuit Court Judge, 27th Judicial Circuit, Place 1
-Christopher Abel (R)
District Attorney, 27th Judicial Circuit
-Jennifer Bray (R)
-Ricky Harcrow (R)
-Nick Welden (R)
-Tom Wilson (R)
Board of Education, Place 5
-Robert Elliot (R)
Commission, District 3
-Ron Saferite (R)
Commission, District 4
-Lester Black (R)
Circuit Court Judge, 9th Judicial Circuit, Place 3
-Jeremy Taylor (R)
District Attorney, 9th Judicial Circuit
-Summer McWhorter Summerford (R)
-Jonathon W. Horton (R)
-London Pearce (R)
Board of Education, Place 4
-Susan Grant Spiker (R)
Board of Education, Place 5
-Doug Sherrod (R)
Commission, Place 1
-Joey Statum (R)
Commission, Place 4
-Tim Ramsey (R)
Commission, Place 5
-Jeffery Washington (D)
Commission, Place 6
-Craig Inzer, Jr. (R)
District Attorney, 16th Judicial Circuit
-Joseph “Jody” Willoughby (R)
District Court Judge, Place 1
-Joe F. Nabors, Jr. (R)
Not all races for county commission and board of education will be featured on all ballots. Which race a voter will see is dependent upon where the voter resides.