An area organization of peace officers has made an endorsement in the four-man race for Rusk County sheriff.

The East Texas Regional Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 51 has announced that it is endorsing Johnwayne Valdez in the Republican primary for sheriff.

Valdez, Nathan Parker and Jesse Stewart are challenging incumbent Sheriff Jeff Price on March 3.

In a statement, the organization said Valdez has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience and that he would bring “a new level of professionalism and leadership to the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office.”

“We believe that as sheriff, Johnwayne Valdez will create an environment for success not only within the agency, but within the communities he will serve, as well,” the statement said. “Valdez has shown a commitment to the betterment of law enforcement and an understanding of the key elements required to successfully foster community relations.”

Price countered Thursday that he has 36 years’ worth of law enforcement experience, including 28 years of supervisory experience — 10 years as a sergeant in first-line supervision, 10 years as a patrol lieutenant in middle management and the past eight years as administrator of the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office.

“So, as far as supervisory experience, I have more experience in those arenas than he does,” Price said.

He added, “We are at the point now where we can really start moving forward. … It takes six to eight years to get a business operational and profiting, and we are at that point right now. We will see things continue to improve and become even better than they are now.”

The nonprofit East Texas Fraternal Order of Police membership consists of officers from across the region. The group’s executive board is made up of officers from police, sheriff’s office and schools in Smith County.

According to a statement Tuesday on its Facebook page, candidates endorsed by the organization have asked for the endorsement and attended a membership meeting in which they answered questions from other officers, among other requirements.

Jimmy Daniell Isaac covers the city of Longview and Gregg County. Follow him on Twitter: @jimmyisaaclives.