With a debate between runoff candidates slated for Thursday, the Santa Barbara County sheriff’s election continues to heat up.

Incumbent Jim Anderson and challenger Bill Brown, Lompoc’s chief of police, are scheduled to speak at a public forum at 7 p.m. on Oct. 5 at the Goleta Valley Community Center. At the debate, the candidates will spar over several issues, including jail overcrowding and gang crime prevention.

Anderson, citing his 32 years at the Sheriff’s Dept., said he has more experience than his opponent, who has only worked in smaller departments.

Meanwhile, Brown said the department needs a change of leadership because there is unrest between Anderson and a considerable amount of the staff.

In addition, Brown said the limited support Anderson received in the primary election is a message from the voters that they too want a new face in the department.

“In the primary vote, Anderson only received 36 percent of the total vote,” Brown said. “If you have a CEO in the private sector with that level of approval, the board would replace him or her. The citizens are the board of directors.”

Anderson said he thinks Isla Vista has become a safer place since he became sheriff, and he expects the trend to continue. He said he has proposed new community outreach programs and has worked on a project to build a new Isla Vista Foot Patrol station.

“Isla Vista safety has increased during my tenure,” Anderson said. “We’re also in the process of building a new foot patrol office behind Isla Vista Theatre and we have funding already allocated.”

Among his plans to make the county and I.V. safer, Brown said he will create a better recruitment system for officers, as well as implement regional occupation programs and internship programs for UCSB students.

Throughout the race, the candidates have battled in an endorsement game. Brown received support from such groups as the Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, which supported Anderson in 2002, and the California Police Chief’s Association.

“Brown is an excellent police chief and will definitely make an excellent sheriff,” Leslie Mcgill the association’s executive director, said.

Anderson received endorsements from neighboring sheriffs and associations such as the Santa Barbara Farm Bureau.

“Based in part on Sheriff Anderson’s understanding of the special safety issues and needs of the agricultural community, we feel he will continue to be the right choice to best represent all county residents as sheriff,” said Same Frye, president of the Santa Barbara Farm Bureau.