Six months before filing begins for the May 2018 primary election, it appears there will be a contested race among Republican candidates for Bartholomew County sheriff.

Rob Kittle, a retired law enforcement officer and former member of the Columbus City and Bartholomew County councils, has announced his intention to challenge incumbent Sheriff Matt Myers, who said he will seek a second four-year term in 2018.

No other Republican candidates have made their interests known in the sheriff’s position, which pays $115,310 a year, county Republican Party chairwoman Barb Hackman said.

Kittle, 58, had campaign signs and other material while greeting prospective voters this week at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair.

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“I thought it was important to reintroduce myself to the community, because I’ve been out of elected office for a couple of years,” Kittle said. “The fair seemed a good opportunity to do that.”

Myers, 48, whose campaign sign was also up at the Republican tent, has also been at the fairgrounds this week, in a working capacity with other public-safety officers.

“I serve at the pleasure of the voters,” Myers said. “This is not my seat, this is the people’s seat. I have always put citizens first.”

Beginning in 1982, Kittle spent almost 14 years with the Columbus Police Department. After taking a few years off from law enforcement, he was hired by the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He retired in June 2014, as an administrative captain.

Myers started his law enforcement career working in the Bartholomew County Jail for a year and a half before moving to the Columbus Police Department as a patrol officer in 1991. He served as assistant chief of police for four years during the administration of Mayor Fred Armstrong, including during the flood of 2008. After winning the May 2014 primary for sheriff, Myers retired from the Columbus Police Department as a lieutenant.

Kittle said he understands the challenges of running against an incumbent. In May 1999, Kittle defeated four-term incumbent Ted Ogle in the Republican primary for the Columbus City Council’s 4th District. He then won the race against Democrat Bob Moats in the general election, serving two terms on the city council.

Three years after his second term on the city council ended, Kittle challenged and defeated incumbent District 2 Bartholomew County Councilman Keith Sells in the 2010 GOP primary, and was elected to his single term to the council by defeating Democrat Jim Clouse.

A few weeks before the 2013 4-H fair, Kittle announced his intentions to run for sheriff since incumbent Mark Gorbett was prevented by term limits from seeking a third consecutive term.

But citing personal and professional reasons, he pulled out of the five-candidate race for the GOP nomination in January 2014.

“Part of the reason was that I felt five candidates was too many,” Kittle said. “Some of those men had more time with the department than I did, and I wasn’t comfortable with splitting the vote.”

Family matters that also factored in his 2014 decision to withdraw have also been long resolved, said Kittle, who retired from the sheriff’s department in June 2014.

Myers went on to defeat three deputy sheriffs in the primary — Todd Noblitt, T.A. Smith and Dean Johnson — and was unopposed in the November 2014 general election. Myers took office in January 2015.

Myers said he and his team have worked hard, and will run for re-election based on his record as sheriff.

“If the voters think I am doing a good job, then I will be re-elected,” Myers said.

”It’s really about the service, not about running for office or challenging your opponent,” he said. “It’s about working for all about the people we serve.”

Rob Kittle

Rob Kittle

Age: 58

Position sought: Bartholomew County sheriff

Law-enforcement career: Spent almost 14 years with the Columbus Police Department starting in 1982. After taking a few years off from law enforcement, he was hired by the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department in 1998, from where he retired in June 2014 as an administrative captain.

Public office: Served two terms representing District 4 on the Columbus City Council, 2000 to 2007; served one term on the Bartholomew County Council, representing District 2, from 2011 to 2014.

Family: Wife, Jo Anna; three daughters

Matt Myers

Name: Matt Myers

Age: 48

Position: Bartholomew County sheriff

Law-enforcement career: Got his start working in the Bartholomew County Jail for a year and a half before moving to the Columbus Police Department as a patrol officer in 1991. Served as assistant chief of police for four years during the administration of Mayor Fred Armstrong. After winning the May 2014 primary for sheriff, retired from the Columbus Police Department as a lieutenant and public information officer.

Public office: Bartholomew County Sheriff since January 2015.

Family: Wife, Kyra Goins-Myers; children, John-David, Kolsen, Nash

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.