There are now two candidates in the race for Coconino County sheriff.
Danny Thomas, who is registered as an independent, filed paperwork this month with the Coconino County Elections Office indicating his intention to run in the fall election.
“I am a person for all citizens of Coconino County and not just Democrats, Republicans or other parties,” Thomas said in a press release announcing his candidacy.
So far, his only opponent is Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jim Driscoll, who announced his intention to run in January. The winner will succeed retiring Sheriff Bill Pribil.
Thomas has spent more than 40 years in law enforcement. He is the former Coconino County chief deputy constable and a retired senior liquor control agent for the state. His law enforcement career began when he joined the Pima County Sheriff’s Department in 1973 after three years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
He spent 10 years with the Pima County sheriff, working in the patrol division and the Pima County Courts division. He also worked as an undercover narcotics officer, SWAT team member, K-9 unit member and major crimes investigator for the Arizona Drug Control District.
He also participated in a sting operation in which he and two other officers went undercover as inmates at the Yuma County Jail to investigate how drugs were getting into the facility. His supervisor at the time, Neil Tietjen, later documented the investigation in the book “Old School Narc.”
Thomas then spent almost 20 years with Arizona Department of Liquor Control. After retiring in 2007, he opened Northern Arizona Expert Liquor Consultants, which helps companies obtain liquor licenses and comply with state liquor laws.
Alcohol abuse is one focus of his campaign.
In his press release, Thomas said if he becomes sheriff, he would educate liquor establishments in the county about not serving alcohol to people who are already intoxicated and hang posters in those establishments to warn patrons about the danger of driving after drinking even small amounts of alcohol.
He wants to partner with other law enforcement to set up DUI checkpoints, especially in high-fatality areas near the Hopi and Navajo Reservations. He also said he wants to create a task force to stop bootleggers from purchasing alcohol in border cities for resale on the dry reservations.
If elected, Thomas said, he would continue to support the Community Emergency Response Team, as well as efforts to help the homeless population, including vulnerable individuals at risk of freezing to death in the winter and homeless veterans living in the county’s forests.
He also wants to start a Sheriff’s Assist volunteer program, a firearms safety program for citizens who want to learn how to use a gun to protect themselves, and a weekly or biweekly self-defense class.
Other goals include enhancing the reserve deputy program, placing school resource officers in all the schools outside city limits and hiring a full-time grant writer.
“We have come to recognize in today’s society certain individuals are making the police out to be the bad guys,” Thomas said. “I want to change this opinion and I am a firm believer that the majority of our police officers today are dedicated and hard working men and women and I as the sheriff will support my officers.”
Thomas earned associate’s degrees in administration of justice and corrections from Pima Community College. He is also a certified public manager. He has belonged to a variety of organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Elks, Shriners, Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police and Arizona Liquor Police Officers’ Association.