HOUSTON COUNTY, Ala. (WDHN) — In just a little over a week, Alabamians will be headed to the polls for the May 24th Primary Election. The future of the Houston County Sheriff’s Office will be one of the races voters will get to decide.

The two candidates running for Houston County Sheriff are incumbent, Donald Valenza, and retired Houston County Deputy, Randy Anderson. Both have a long reputation in law enforcement and believe they have what it takes to keep the county protected and safe.

“There are still things I’d like to do for our department,” Sheriff Valenza said. “Bring them up further than where are at. We have come a long way in the last four years.”

Starting his career in law enforcement 43 years ago, Valenza started as a deputy with the Houston County Sheriff’s Office and was appointed sheriff in 2014 by Governor Robert Bentley. He claims the office has progressed for the better during his leadership.

“I try to give the deputies everything they need to do their jobs,” Valenza said. “This is not an easy career. This is not an easy job. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like.”

According to Valenza, he was on the very first SWAT team under Sheriff Clark and remained on it for 27-years 11 of those years he was the commander of the team.

Valenza has since won two election cycles, the first in 2015, and again in 2018. He said if elected, once more he will continue to bring advancements to the sheriff’s office, something he believes is important to keep crime low.

“We’ve purchased 63 vehicles at $1.56 million, at no cost to the taxpayers,” Valenza said. “We are still the home keeper for Homeland Security for 10 southern counties, purchased a Bearcat, which was $291,000, no money from the commission.”

In his over 30-years with the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, Randy Anderson had many roles including deputy, lieutenant, and commander.

“I come with a plan,” Anderson said. “My opponent has not said anything other than we got more things to do and have helped implement a lot of programs in the department.”

Anderson is most known for starting and teaching the D.A.R.E. program in Houston County. He said the amount of crime happening in the county is concerning.

“Crime is up dramatically even though you don’t hear a lot of what is going on,” Anderson said. “Crime is up a lot in Alabama and nationwide. I feel like I am still young enough, I have valuable experience.”

If elected, Anderson said he will work more closely with Dothan Police Department, and being a current school resource officer with DPD, he believes he knows how to do just that. According to Anderson, he will also establish a citizens observer programs, like neighborhood watches, and be more transparent with the public.

“Houston County will be proud of their sheriff’s department,” Anderson said. “Because it’s about them and not individual people.”

According to Anderson, he also was one of the first to be a K9 handler with the Houston County Sheriff’s Office.

Both candidates agree and tell WDHN it’s vital for the future of Houston County for all eligible voters to go out and cast their ballot in next Tuesday’s election.