Big shoes await next sheriff

Published 7:55 am Saturday, October 8, 2011

Regardless of who triumphs in the race to become the next sheriff of Southampton County and the City of Franklin on Nov. 8, come the first of the new year, this community will have a new chief law enforcement officer for the first time in more than a quarter-century.

In fact, the next sheriff will replace one of only three men to have occupied the position since 1926. That was the year Thomas Bell was elected sheriff of Southampton County, an office he held until 1960. He was replaced by the relative short-timer of the group, Ryland Brooks, who served for 24 years until the current sheriff, Vernie Francis, was elected in 1984. Francis, who is retiring, will have been in office for 28 years when he hangs up his badge at the end of the year.

The candidates vying to replace the current sheriff bring an impressive list of credentials to the table. Each believes he is uniquely qualified for the job. A couple of the candidates have 30 years of personal experience in varying aspects of law enforcement.

As a matter of policy, we refrain from endorsing candidates in local political races. That won’t change for this race. Rather, we encourage citizens to size up the candidates, their qualifications, backgrounds and philosophies and pick the one they believe will best carry on Southampton County’s fine tradition of chief law enforcement.

While it’s highly unlikely that the next sheriff will experience the same longevity as his predecessors, we hope he will bring the same commitment to service, leadership and community that residents of Southampton County and Franklin have come to expect from their sheriff over the past 86 years.