MARYVILLE, Mo. — Billing himself as the once and future sheriff, Darren White, a Democrat, is running for Nodaway County Sheriff again.
First elected sheriff in 2008, then ousted by current sheriff Randy Strong four years ago in a close race, White is back in the ring this election cycle, looking to get his old chair back.
“Well, obviously I was sheriff once before, and I’ve really spent my whole life in public service, whether it be as a paramedic, deputy sheriff, sheriff — so, you know, I guess it’s in my blood,” White told The Forum.
This time, White is predicting a different outcome from 2016, when he lost to Strong by about 700 votes.
“It’s really easy to run for an office and make a lot of bold statements and promises and things like that — everybody does it — but here we are four years into it, and now people have had a chance to say, has he performed like I thought he would?” White said (see Strong’s candidate profile in this paper). “Has he not performed like I wanted him to? And I think that that plays into it. And I would argue that there are a lot of things that have not gone really well.”
White said that it’s the “little things” that he sees lacking in the sheriff’s office now.
“I think that the actual day-to-day service to the people has just gone away,” he said. “You know, everybody wants to be the subject of that big case that gets you on ‘60 Minutes’ … but it’s the everyday stuff that affects people in a greater way.”
It’s an attitude he said he would bring with him if he is returned to office by voters in November.
“You know, you could ask the question … what’s the biggest problem in Nodaway County?” White said. “And the true answer is, it’s whatever is affecting you at this moment in time. And so for some people, it might be that barking dog that never goes away, or it might be the fact that I constantly drive down this road and the farmer’s cattle are out in the middle of the road. It might be that we’ve got this jerk who lives over here that’s selling marijuana to our high school kids, you know, things like that.
“It’s not always the biggest crimes that are the most important, but it’s the things that affect people day in and day out that they grow weary of. And the only way you can combat that stuff is, you’ve got to be out there, you’ve got to be connected to the people, you’ve got to be listening to what they say, and you have to be responsive to what they say.”
White said that under Strong, the sheriff’s office has lost touch with the community it serves, a claim that Strong denies (see Strong’s candidate profile in this paper). But White insists that wherever he goes in the county, speaking to public groups, they ask, “where is everybody?”
“I say that all you have to do is go out in the county and listen to people and what they say,” White said. “… And I’m sure that you’ll find people that will say he’s a great guy, and that they’re here and all that, but overall, I think that you’ll find that it’s quite the opposite.”
That extends to business checks as well, a practice that he says voters have told him they miss from his tenure as sheriff. White said that recently while in Graham, someone brought up the business checks to him, and recounted how they always appreciated that deputies would check to see if the building was locked and secure, and leave a card letting the owner know they had done so. (Strong told The Forum that the checks have continued, but without the cards.) And, in case it was unlocked for any reason, he’d always get a phone call from the deputy.
“And again, that’s one of the little things,” White said. “But when people know that you’re out there and checking on things, whether it be the good people or the bad people, it makes them more aware in the case of some of the criminals. It makes them think, ‘You know what? You never know when these guys are going to show up, so maybe I better not.’”
Comments on Daisy, Melinda Coleman
“Well, you know, obviously the 800-pound gorilla in the room is the whole Daisy Coleman thing,” White said, acknowledging the fallout from comments he made to the Northwest Missourian last month.
In an interview for a profile in Northwest’s student newspaper, White made a number of comments about Daisy Coleman and her mother, Melinda, the most incendiary of which seemed to imply that Daisy Coleman, who took her own life in August, killed herself — or faked her death in collaboration with her mother — in a timeframe relatively close to the election in which White is trying to regain his spot as sheriff in order to affect the election. White held the post in 2011 when Daisy Coleman said she was sexually assaulted (see Sheriff Randy Strong’s reaction in his candidate profile in this paper).
In the same quote, White incorrectly states that Melinda Coleman is a convicted felon. Online case records show she was charged with felony forgery in 2018 in connection with suspected insurance fraud, but was only convicted of two misdemeanors in the case. She has not been charged with any other felonies in Missouri.
“What went through my head was, ‘Isn’t it odd that this happened right at an election?’” White told the Northwest Missourian. “Isn’t it odd that she lives so far away from here and the only information that we’re receiving is from her mother, who we know is a serial liar? I mean, she’s a convicted felon for fraud, insurance fraud. … My experience with her is that you can’t really believe anything that comes out of her mouth. You better verify it for yourself.”
To The Forum, White lamented Daisy Coleman’s death, but did not back off his comments.
“It’s unfortunate, it’s very unfortunate, that (Daisy Coleman) and in particular, her mother, did not get the help that I begged them to get,” White said. “Because there’s a problem in that family, and the bigger problem has always been the mother.”
It’s not the first time White has taken issue with Melinda Coleman in particular. Last year, after Coleman was charged with forgery and before she was found guilty of the misdemeanors, White wrote in The Forum a letter to the editor that blamed Melinda Coleman for preventing her daughter from testifying in her sexual assault case, leading to the lesser charges filed against the suspects and White’s seeming vilification in the 2016 Netflix documentary “Audrie & Daisy.”
White, who is featured prominently in the film through extensive interviews in multiple locations including a ride-along in a sheriff’s office vehicle, repeated those sentiments to The Forum for this profile, and called the documentary “fiction,” saying that he “never participated in the film.”
“My presence in it was all clips that they’d pieced together from various news things,” he said.
That documentary, which came out in late September 2016, likely had some bearing on that election, White said.
“Everything has an effect, so, I wouldn’t rule that out,” he said. “And I have said on numerous occasions the past few years that, I think most of the people that actually live around here, that went through that, have figured out what that family is all about. And again, it’s really unfortunate that they refused to get the help that they really needed.”
As for the comments printed in the student newspaper, White said that he does not regret saying them.
“No, I don’t,” he said. “(Daisy Coleman’s) mother, she has issues. And one of the issues is that she’s not able to tell the truth. And so, you know, you really don’t want to take her at her word. Now, it’s my understanding that (the reporter, Andrew Wegley) from the Missourian actually contacted that police department out there and verified (that Daisy Coleman had died of suicide). And good for him, because as I said, you need to verify this for yourself. Don’t believe me, and certainly don’t believe her. Verify it for yourself.”
Going further, White reiterated that he did find it suspicious that Daisy Coleman’s death came in the months leading up to an election involving him.
“Yeah, kind of like the film coming out right before the (2016) election,” he said.
White confirmed to The Forum that he thought it was possible Daisy Coleman had killed herself in August in part to affect his chances in the Nodaway County Sheriff’s race.
“Well, I don’t think they’ve ever let that go,” White said of the Colemans. “I mean this has been how many years now? And they just keep wanting to — every time things kind of settled down, Melinda Coleman has to get it going again. Because really it’s all about her getting the attention. And every time something happens, she has a GoFundMe account. And I think that’s somewhat shameful.”
White said he is not concerned that his comments might be offensive to some people.
“All I would say is that I’ve always been a person to speak the truth, no matter how uncomfortable that might make people feel,” he said. “I don’t dance around the issues, I say things the way that they are. And I’m not apologetic for it.”