Darren M. Popkin thought about becoming a lawyer. It was one reason he took a job as a sheriff’s deputy, to work in courts and law enforcement.
He never made it to law school, but 30 years later, Popkin is Montgomery County’s sheriff and is running for re-election next year.
Popkin is in charge of the agency responsible for serving warrants and protective orders, apprehending fugitives, transporting prisoners, guarding the county’s courts, and carrying out other functions of the state’s judicial branch.
The sheriff’s office has about 180 employees — 147 sheriff’s deputies and 33 civilian employees.
Popkin, a Democrat, was the only person who had filed for the office as of Tuesday.
The primary will be on June 24, 2014. The general election will be on Nov. 4, 2014.
During an interview last month, Popkin said he has raised about $10,000 so far, and expects to raise between $30,000 and $35,000 over the course of his campaign. He plans to have a fundraiser in mid-to-late January, he said.
A father of three, Popkin, 51, lives in Olney with his wife, Suzanne. One of his daughters has graduated from college and a second is a senior who plans to attend medical school. His son attends a public high school in the county.
Before he was elected sheriff in 2010, Popkin spent 12 years as chief deputy sheriff.
One of his goals since taking over as sheriff has been to increase the office’s profile in the community, he said.
“We’re much more engaged with the community than we used to be,” he said, touting the sheriff office’s work fighting domestic violence, use of social media to connect with Montgomery County residents and new partnerships with local high schools.
When the Montgomery County Police Department received funding to add more resource officers in several new schools around the county, Popkin assigned one of his deputies at the Colonel Zadok A. Magruder High School in Rockville, he said.
That deputy mediated 15 disputes in her first month on the job, Popkin said.
Popkin said his office has cut down on the number of domestic violence incidents in Montgomery County, especially through the county’s Family Justice Center, a resource for victims of domestic violence.
In 2010, the year after the center was created, Montgomery County did not have any domestic-violence related homicides, he said.
Previously, domestic violence victims had to find services at dozens of locations around the county, he said. Now, victims of domestic violence can ask judges for protective orders via a video conferencing system.
In the future, Popkin would like see the center work with medical personnel so domestic violence victims could receive care from forensic nurses or medical professionals immediately after they have been assaulted, he said.
Sheriff’s office is another priority for him.
In budgets in past years, the sheriff’s office couldn’t hire new deputies and was not fully staffed, he said. He has six cadets in training, but staffing issues will become more important in the next five years, when a quarter of his deputies will become eligible to retire, he said.
“It’s a challenging job,” Popkin said. “It’s just something rewarding, with all the people we can help. ... We’re saving lives with the FJC, and making a difference in the community.”