NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (FOX 56) – You can tell the sheriff’s race in Jessamine County is a big deal by all of the billboards, yard signs, and videos on social media.

Two veteran lawmen are on the Republican primary ballot. Because there are no Democrats running for sheriff, Republican voters will decide on May 17 who holds the office for the next four years.

Sheriff Kevin Corman would like four more years in the office he’s held since 2004. Nicholasville police Sgt. Kevin Grimes would like to move into the sheriff’s office.

“I think I’ve reached my peak with the Nicholasville Police Department and I think it’s time to maybe change things in the county and give a shot at a different job,” Grimes said.

Until this year, Corman was a registered Democrat who won races easily. He passed on several offers from FOX 56 for an on-camera interview but did tell reporter Marvin Bartlett over the phone that he switched parties because so few Democrats are on the Jessamine County ballot. He was “afraid no one would show up to vote in the primary.” Plus, he said he’s always been conservative and aligns with the GOP on issues such as gun rights and abortion.

But Grimes, who is retiring from the city police department after 22 years, believes it’s time for a change at the county level.

“I think one of the things (the sheriff’s office) has lost touch with is the community,” Grimes said. “Are they in the community speaking to people, adults, and neighborhood associations? Are they working with youth, functioning in our schools and other places?”

Corman said he’s proud of his track record. In a Facebook video for his campaign page, he said “As sheriff, I’ve kept all of my campaign promises.”

He said promises kept include making it easier for homeowners to pay property taxes online, the startup of a school resource officers’ program, and around-the-clock county-wide patrols.

In this campaign season, Corman has had to hope voters have forgiven him for an embarrassing DUI arrest last fall, when he was stopped for erratic driving in his official vehicle. The arrest citation said he failed a field sobriety test and that there was a cup of bourbon in the car. Corman released a written apology then, saying “Thinking I was not impaired that night was a mistake, and I sincerely hope that the people of this community can accept my apology.”

Corman paid about $800 in fines and went back to work.

LATEST KENTUCKY NEWS:

“People are saying, ‘Well, he just made a mistake,'” Grimes said. “The reality is, as a sheriff, as a leader, that is not a mistake you can make. You have to set the bar higher than everyone else and be an example. Any deputy, any police officer of any agency, would’ve been terminated, but because he’s an elected official that wasn’t in the works, so really it’s up to the people to make that choice.”

Corman said there’s a lot more to running the office than law enforcement. The sheriff is responsible for tax collection, court security, transporting inmates and maintaining a sex offender registry. He said his office has gotten quite good at all of those things

Grimes said voters should not be concerned that he doesn’t have experience in tax collection.

“Everybody has a first day of work, ” he said. “If I surround myself with good staff, it’s just a matter of educating myself.”

Both candidates said public service is in their blood. It’s up to voters to decide who keeps serving.