Jackson sheriff's race: meet the candidates

The May 6 primary will narrow down the contenders for the Jackson County sheriff. The field of six Democrats and three Republicans will be whittled down to one candidate per party for the November ballot.


Glen Biller, D, 50

Qualifications: Deputy at Haywood County Sheriff Department. Twenty-four years in the U.S. Army, including four years active duty; 14 years managing building supply company.

Reason to run: “My goal is to make sure that Jackson County is safe for all of our citizens and to enforce the laws of North Carolina without bias.”

Philosophy: “The Sheriff’s Office will serve the citizens of Jackson County with respect and the courtesy they deserve.” 

Favorite vacation spot: The beach 


Douglas Farmer, D, 50

Qualifications: Police officer at Sylva Police Department. Sixteen years in law enforcement, including stints with the Macon and Jackson county sheriff’s offices, as well as the Highlands Police Department; One year as international police officer in Iraq.

Reason to run: “I’ve got such a wide range of experience that I think it gives me a real even keel on how to deal with people and how to approach difficult situations.”

Philosophy: “I will enforce the law and aggressively pursue the people that put this stuff [drugs] on our streets, put them in jail and keep them there.” 

Favorite music: Bluegrass and gospel, especially Mountain Faith


Michael Gosnell, D, 58

Qualifications: Security guard at Old Edwards Club at Highlands Cove. Thirty-five years in security, including seven as an armed guard and 27 in law enforcement.

Reason to run: “Jackson County is my home and I want to see what I can do to deter and fight crime. It’s not going to be wiped out, but it can be reduced.”

Philosophy: “A sheriff elected is only as good as his word. In other words, make no promises but show results.”

Favorite TV show: “In the Heat of the Night”


Robin Gunnels, D, 49

Qualifications: Owner of Custom Truck Covers. Seventeen years in law enforcement as jailor, patrol officer, sergeant and lieutenant; 12 years as business owner.

Reason to run: “I know what the public talks about. I know what their needs are. I know how to manage a budget. I’m not a one-dimensional person.”

Philosophy: “We have to fix things now. We have to be proactive now, not wait till later. I built my entire life on one principle, and that is integrity.”

Favorite fruit: Mangos


Chip Hall, D, 46

Qualifications: Chief deputy at Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. Twenty-five years at Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in a variety of positions.  

Reason to run: “I want to reach out to be active in everything that goes on in our community, to have a relationship with our citizens beyond anything we’ve ever had.”

Philosophy: “Community involvement is the key to a functioning sheriff’s office and a good community response.”

Favorite fruit: apples  


Steven Lillard, D, 43

Qualifications: Assistant police chief at Western Carolina University. Nineteen years in law enforcement as a patrol officer, investigator and division-level administrator

Reason to run: “My experience, training and education have helped prepare me to make good decisions and collaborate with other people and agencies.” 

Philosophy: “I want to be open and honest with the public. Working together, we can solve problems.”

Favorite TV show: “Blue Bloods” 


Jim Hodgins, R, 62

Qualifications: Retired logger. Forty years as a logger, including business ownership.

Reason to run: “I’m hoping we can accomplish getting the drugs out of here, or doing our best to slow them way down.” 

Philosophy: “I think the sheriff ought to be out there looking after his men. I believe he needs to take care of them and stay on them to make sure they do their jobs.” 

Favorite TV show: “Andy Griffith Show” 


Curtis Lambert, R, 44

Qualifications: Former officer at Sylva Police Department. Fourteen years in law enforcement, including service with the Sylva Police Department and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office; former vice president of payroll service. 

Reason to run: “I have a combination of law enforcement and business experience, and that’s what it takes nowadays to be an effective sheriff.” 

Philosophy: “An effective leader will be someone that will have an open-door policy and an open-department policy to where they’re not trying to hide things that are going on.”

Favorite vacation: history tour of Charleston, S.C. 


Mary Alice Rock, R, 46

Qualifications: Bail bondsman. Two years of active duty in the U.S. Army; seven years in inactive reserves; basic law enforcement training; 15 years as bail bondsman.

Reason to run: “There appears to be no law in Jackson County, and we need law restored.” 

Philosophy: “Help people who need help. Get back to the basics of why you have a sheriff’s office to begin with. It’s to protect and serve the public, not personal needs or gains.” 

Favorite music: “Keep Ya Head Up” by 2PAC; “God Bless America” 

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