HARDIN COUNTY, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Hardin County sheriff's race is one to watch in Tuesday's primary as the incumbent looks to keep his seat from a challenger aiming to make history. 

Democrat Willie Oden would become Hardin County's first African-American sheriff if he defeats incumbent John Ward and goes on to victory in November.

"I'm going on 29 years in the military and the desire to give back," Oden said. "I've done it for the country for so long now that it's coming to the end of my career. I wanted to give to the county."

Oden isn't running this race on his race. Instead, the U.S. Army Reserve sergeant major talks of his desire to fuse policing skills he's gained from working with some of on the highest levels of law enforcement like the secret service and local police departments across the country. Oden's service includes six deployments, two bronze stars and serving as the director of emergency services in Kuwait.   

"(It) consists of fire, EMS, police and security," he said. "I had about $180 million budget I managed while I was doing that."

Oden hopes to bridge gaps between officers and the neighbors they serve by implementing community policing. 

"Ride through the neighborhood, stop, sit, have coffee in the mornings with your elderly folks," he said. "They can tell you a lot. They sit on their porches and they see things."

While Oden has many ideas and experience for the job, incumbent John Ward is a seasoned face in Hardin County's law enforcement scene. He worked his way up for 28 years in the Kentucky State Police department and commanded the Elizabethtown post for the nine years prior to his retirement.

"I feel like I can make a different in Hardin County, and I still want to work hard to that," Ward said. "I can't imagine not being in public service. It's a part my life. 

Ward won office in 2014 and listed added resources officers to schools and the increased number of calls Hardin County Deputies respond to as his successes. He said deputies now respond to 50 percent of all the 911 runs in the county, up from 30 percent when he took office. 

Republican Louis Grider is hoping the third time will be the charm as his faces the winner of the race between Oden and Ward in November. He ran for Hardin County sheriff unsuccessfully in 2014 and 2010. Grider brings business experience to the table as a former novelty shop owner, though he lacks the law enforcement pedigree of his challengers. Grider said he served four years with Homeland Security and six in the military. 

"I want to focus on more issues like the children in the schools," Grider said. "The kids know what's going on first, and so I want to build a trust with them." 

The sheriff's race is considered the one to watch in Hardin County, as the county attorney, clerk and judge executive will all walk into re-election unopposed.

With much at stake, Oden said he's just asking voters to do one thing.

"Be informed," he said. "Get to know both candidates. Pray about it and let your heart be your decision-maker, not a name."

Polls are open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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