Monday, Oct. 28, 2002 | 11:31 a.m.
On paper the two candidates for sheriff appear similar.
Metro Police Capt. Randy Oaks and Deputy Chief Bill Young are both started their careers with Metro and have worked their way up through the ranks. Both worked in vice/narcotics and field training, and they both say their favorite assignment was special operations, which included search and rescue and air support.
Both say they chose to run for sheriff because no one else was qualified. But their perception of Metro and what they plan to do if elected separate them.
Oaks, 50, who ran unsuccessfully for sheriff against incumbent Jerry Keller in 1994, says the current administration -- of which Young is among the top seven in command -- isn't doing a good job.
He wants Metro to become a more service-oriented department, in which people whose cars are stolen, for example, get to meet with an officer. He also wants to improve the 911 system by adding new phone lines and call-takers.
Young, 46, counters that during Oaks' time at Metro, his challenger never made any suggestions on how to improve the department from within. Young believes Metro is already a good department and says he will focus on homeland security, identity theft and fraud, and gang violence.
Young, a fourth-generation Nevadan, was born in Yerington, just south of Reno. His father, a construction worker, helped build Interstate 15. The family moved to North Las Vegas in the early 1960s and lived in a trailer, which allowed them to move from location to location depending on the progress of the interstate's construction.
After graduating from Bishop Gorman High School in 1974, Young briefly went to college in Cedar City, Utah. He took emergency medical technician courses there, then began working as a ski resort patrolman. Young returned to Las Vegas and worked for Mercy Ambulance as a paramedic.
"That lead me to apply to Metro," Young said. "I actually applied to the fire department too, but Metro hired me first."
He resumed his education at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and received his bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 1988.
His wife of 24 years, Sandy, now works for the fire department as a registered nurse. They have four children, Billy, 23, who is working on his father's campaign; Brian, a college student in Northern California; Christopher, 17, a student at Bishop Gorman; and Cara, 8, a third grader at St. Ann's School.
When Keller announced his retirement, Young said he said he "looked around at the landscape" at other potential candidates and decided to throw his hat into the ring.
Starting out at the bottom of an organization and working his way up was "intoxicating," Young said.
"I've lived in this community for almost my whole life," he said. "I've had an unbelieveably great career, and I've really been lucky and blessed."
Oaks was born in Miami, and his family moved to northwestern Pennsylvania, Northern California and Southern California before settling in Las Vegas in 1967.
"I sometimes joke with people that my dad was running from the law, but that's not true," Oaks said. His father was a machinist, then became the treasurer at a research lab based in Las Vegas.
His father shaped his ambition to go into law enforcement, Oaks said. His father wanted to be a cop, but didn't meet the height requirements that existed at the time.
When Oaks turned 21, the minimum age for police officers, he took the Metro exam and in November 1973 was brought on as a Metro rookie.
"I grew up with a respect for law enforcement. It was something that was revered," he said. Oaks' two brothers also became cops: One is a deputy in Stockton, Calif., and the other was a Henderson cop for 15 years.
Oaks has been married to his wife, Dawn, a business development director, for 5 1/2 years. His daughter, Staci, is a government teacher at Silverado High School; his 19-year-old son lives in Northern California with his mother; and his 16-year-old stepson is a student at Faith Lutheran High School.
After Keller announced he wouldn't be seeking another term as sheriff, Oaks said he saw who was stepping up, and decided to take another shot at running.
"I saw it would be four more years of the way it's been," he said. "We need new leadership."