BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Sheriff Youngblood has a new challenger for this upcoming primary election, after Chief Deputy Fleeman announced his candidacy Wednesday.
Fleeman said some of his main goals are to restore public trust in the department from the community and to make sure deputies have leaderships they believe in. He also spoke about some of the challenges he's currently up against with 23ABC.
Kern County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) current and former employees spent the morning providing insight on the main problems that need attention at KCSO.
"For the past nine years we have been dealing with failed leadership from Sheriff Donny Youngblood," President of the Kern County Detentions Office Association Kevin Dees said.
Several of them chose to stand alongside another leader in the community Wednesday, "We’re here to support Justin Fleeman to be our next Kern County Sheriff!" Dees continued.
Fleeman also made his first promises to the public with his formal candidacy announcement, “The days of having an underserved county and ineffective leadership are over."
He is hoping to restore trust in the department after guns were stolen from a patrol car in a substation parking lot and a drug scandal linked deputies from KCSO as well.
Fleeman pledged to be more transparent from within the department to keep the community plugged into what is happening, "So they know what’s going on and not try and hide behind saying things are personnel related matters, when the truth of the matter is we need to bring people in and let them know what’s going on, and during this campaign I will do that and even if it shows the ugly side of the Sheriff's Office."
Fleeman said his way forward is to put people over the quote, "politics", to reinstate more deputies and to tackle budget issues.
One of his strong supporters, retired Senior Deputy Sheriff Daures Stephens also advised Fleeman to reconsider all aspects of the race before deciding to run, "Because I know that a lot of problems could come his way. There could be a lot of retaliation from the current Sheriff to hurt his career."
Other supporters say Fleeman has the tools to overcome internal politics, that may get involved in the race.
"We have worked with Justin for 20 years and he has earned the trust of our union and our officers," Dees said.
Fleeman vowed his commitment to focus on what matters for the greater good regardless of any challenges that may come down the road, "Your Sheriff’s Office will arrest and book criminals to detour crime in Kern County, your Sheriff's Office will open the Ridgecrest Jail, your Sheriff's Office will work with all members of the community to make sure our county prospers."
Sheriff Youngblood was unable to comment Wednesday because he is in Sacramento, but he may comment on his colleague’s campaign Thursday with 23ABC.