By Gail Binkly
Odis Sikes has no experience in law enforcement, but he isn’t letting that stop him from challenging Montezuma County’s incumbent Sheriff Steve Nowlin for the position. From the age of 18 Sikes has demonstrated leadership skills, he said. And for more than a year, some local folks have been urging him to run.
Sikes enlisted in the Army during the Vietnam War and served overseas. He spent nearly three years there.
“I went in as a private and 10 months later I was a sergeant, an E-5,” he told the Four Corners Free Press in a phone interview. “That’s kind of rare. Evidently they saw some leadership ability in me.”
While in Vietnam, he learned quickly how to take action, how to behave in a variety of situations, and he could learn how to be sheriff, he said during a meet-and-greet on Aug. 26, a video of which is available on his Facebook page.
“I’m pretty sure I could figure it out, being sheriff,” he told the crowd of 40 or 50. “I’m still able to learn.”
The sheriff’s job is in large part administrative. Sikes believes he could handle that.
“I’ve never been like a business administrator or anything like that,” he told the Free Press. “But I have run crews in the oil field.” He now does inspection work for Kinder-Morgan, he said.
“When I was first asked to run, around March 2021, I said, ‘I don’t have any law-enforcement background’ and they said, ‘You’ll have an undersheriff and deputies.’ It’s really an administrative job. You hire the right people to do the right jobs.”
Sikes told the Free Press he is not running for his own benefit. He has plenty of other things to keep him busy. “I have horses, cows, kids, grandkids, great-grandkids. But nobody else has stepped up. No Democrat is running and there was no Republican in the primary.” Sikes, who is unaffiliated, petitioned onto the general-election ballot.
People had come to him expressing concerns about drugs and crime. “Drugs are getting worse by the day. Even Sheriff Nowlin said that,” Sikes said. “He had an informative meeting and said crime is getting worse, criminals are getting bolder and drugs are getting worse.”
Another of the public’s concerns, Sikes said, is they believe that criminals who are caught aren’t held accountable. “They plead them out and let them walk,” he said.
A major problem Sikes sees are “unconstitutional laws passed by the state legislature,” such as the “Red Flag” law passed in 2019 that allows law officers to remove firearms from someone if a court orders it. The judge must have received a petition from either law officers or civilians, such as family members, saying that an individual poses a danger to themselves or others if he or she possesses a firearm.
The Red Flag law, Sikes said, violates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which he called “the most important document in our lives other than the Bible.”
IF someone poses a danger to themselves or to others, he said, “We’ve already got ways to handle that. Red Flag violates the First, Second and Fourth amendments. You just go with a court order and take their guns and can do it without even investigating. I would take the court order and give it back to the judge and give the judge a copy of the Constitution.
“We can’t change Denver, we can’t change Washington [D.C.]. We have to start on the local level and say enough is enough, we’re not going to have unconstitutional laws that tell us what we can do and can’t do.”
Beyond constitutional issues, Sikes said one of his priorities if elected would be to try to raise pay for sheriff’s deputies. “They don’t make enough money,” he said. “Montezuma County is one of the most underpaid counties for deputies in the whole state. I’ve been told they hire somebody new and they stay six months to a year and go somewhere else. You can’t blame them. We need to get their salaries up.”
How he would do that he does not yet know, he said.
“I don’t know anything about how their budget works,” he said. One audience member at the meet-and-greet said the county commissioners, who oversee the sheriff’s budget, are holding back on salaries. “The commissioners are elected officials just like the sheriff,” Sikes told the audience. “The people are his boss, not the commissioners. There’s got to be some way to get their money up.”
Law officers “take a chance every day,” he noted.
He said he doesn’t think there are major issues with retaining employees at the county detention center. “I don’t really know a whole lot about the jail,” he told the Free Press.
Concerns about issues involving children and schools have come up as issues his supporters would like him to address.
At the meet-and-greet, one audience member asked Sikes, “Will you stand for our kids? Will you go into the junior high and tell the principal that he cannot use this transgender crap on our kids? That is child abuse.”
Sikes replied, “I think those people need to go to jail. I mean, that’s child abuse. They wanted to do that in our library. I think the sheriff should have went in there and said, ‘You’re going to jail. Right now. You can either get out of this county and never come back or you’re going to jail’.”
In his interview with the Free Press, Sikes expounded on that issue. He said he was referring to an event planned for the Cortez Public Library on June 22 of this year. The event, a drag show, was planned in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month but was canceled.
“A month or two ago the Cortez library was going to have some transgender men dressed like women come in and read to children in the library,” Sikes told the Free Press. (The planned event actually did not involve transgender individuals, but men from Durango dressed as drag queens doing a show for entertainment.)
Sikes said schools should not allow “pedophile and gender talk about ‘It’s OK to change your gender.’ That’s child abuse. That’s what I said. I said I think those people ought to go to jail.”
He said that in Texas, his home state, such people are escorted to the county line and told not to come back because that if they do return they will go to jail.
At the meet-and-greet, Sikes said law enforcement should be more involved in school-board meetings and express views on subjects like CRT (critical race theory). “Show up and say, ‘Look, that’s junk, we’re not going to teach that to our kids’.”
In his interview with the Free Press, he explained he meant going to meetings “not as a bully” but “to be involved in our kids’ lives and education – who’s teaching them what.”
Critical race theory is an academic concept generally taught in graduate schools that centers on the tenet that racism is endemic in society rather than restricted to a few racist individuals.
Sikes said it is being taught in local K-12 schools and that it involves saying “white people treat black people bad, oppress black people – whites are just bad people.”
He said he has no problem with schools teaching U.S. history, including the facts that there were slaves in the South and there was a Civil War. He added that the Civil War “wasn’t just about slavery, it was about states’ rights and slavery was a part of that.”
“CRT is designed to divide us,” Sikes said. “They are trying to keep black and white people separate, apart. They don’t want us as a united nation. Divide and conquer.”
The sheriff needs to stand up against the state and federal governments, he said. “The state doesn’t have control over the county sheriff. You should work with the state and federal government but not be controlled by them. He’s an elected official. Even the FBI and the DEA don’t have precedence over the county sheriff because they’re hired.”
Until now, Sikes has not entered the realm of politics. “I have never done anything political,” he said. But when he pointed that out to the folks who were urging him to run, “They said, ‘That’s even better’.
“I took some time to pray and think about it, and then I decided to run. Two things are important – believe in God and support the Constitution.”