Isle of Wight officer seeks Southampton sheriff’s office
Published 7:24 pm Tuesday, February 19, 2019
A fourth candidate has declared his intention to seek the office of Southampton County sheriff.
Lt. Tommy Potter, who serves as the chief investigator and public information officer for the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office, has already collected the 125 signatures of qualified voters needed to appear on the ballot in Southampton County, and, today, plans to turn in his paperwork to County Registrar Lynn Burgess.
Earlier this month, the current sheriff, J.B. “Jack” Stutts, announced he would retire at the end of this year, and therefore would not be running for reelection. The other three candidates to have announced their intentions to run for the office are two current Southampton County Sheriff’s Office deputies – Capt. Josh Wyche and Sgt. Mark Turner — and retired Virginia State Trooper John Brown.
“I’ve been thinking about this [running for sheriff] for a while,” said Potter, who has lived in Southampton County for over 35 years. “I’ve had some people encourage me to give it serious thought … Isle of Wight County has been very good to me. We have an outstanding sheriff’s office, but the old saying goes, ‘Home is where the heart is.’ My heart is in Franklin [and] Southampton County.”
Potter then described retiring sheriff Stutts as an “outstanding public servant,” but added that for about the past 30 years, Southampton County’s voters have chosen to promote from within the sheriff’s office when selecting a new sheriff.
“At some point, it’s good to have someone from outside the office to bring a fresh perspective,” Potter said.
As for his plans for Southampton County if elected sheriff, Potter said one of his priorities would be to work with the county administration to simplify the sheriff’s office budget, which he said is split into four different places within the county’s overall budget. Potter explained that he would prefer a one- to two-page document listing exactly how much money has been allocated to the sheriff’s office and what has been spent to-date each month. This, he said, could be posted on the county’s website so that taxpayers know how their dollars are being spent.
Another objective, Potter said, was to pursue accreditation through the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Council.
“I know that the people at the sheriff’s office do an outstanding job every day,” Potter said, but compared the benefit of having an evaluation by an outside agency to going to a doctor for a checkup. This, like the budget simplification, he said, would make the agency “more accountable to the taxpayers.”
Other priorities, Potter said, would include fostering a “positive work environment” at the sheriff’s office, having either himself as sheriff or a senior member of his command staff present at every town council and city council meeting, and “community policing,” which he defined as having deputies actively engaged with their communities via participation with youth and senior citizen groups.
He also plans to implement a program he calls “Every School, Every Child, Every Day.” This would involve deputies stopping by each of the county’s schools for five to 10 minutes during their patrol routes. This would result in a marked patrol unit being parked at each school every day, and would give the deputy a chance to enter the school and speak with teachers and/or administrators.
Potter began his 20-year law enforcement career as a patrolman for the City of Franklin Police Department. In 2005, he left the FPD to work for the private security contractor Blackwater USA, and was sent to New Orleans on a contract with the Federal Protective Service during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. While in New Orleans, Potter was the operations and security manager for the metropolitan New Orleans area, overseeing a guard force of over 125 and up to 15 recovery sites at any given time. In September 2006, Potter joined the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office as a patrol deputy.
In 2007, Potter returned to the private sector and was sent under federal contract to Afghanistan to lead a team of police mentors responsible for training and equipping the newly formed Afghanistan National Police Force. After suffering an injury on a mentoring mission, Potter returned to Franklin. After being medically cleared in 2010, Potter returned to the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office, this time as an investigator and property and evidence custodian.
Today, Potter is responsible for every aspect of the Investigations Unit, to include oversight of forensics, narcotics, homicide and general assignment investigators. His additional duties as PIO began five years ago.
He is a 1997 graduate of the Crater Criminal Justice Academy, and is one course away from completing the FBI Law Enforcement executive Development Association trilogy of courses. He also has an application pending to attend the FBI National Academy.
On the subject of the FPD, Potter also said that Franklin’s search for a new police chief coinciding with Southampton County’s sheriff’s election was a “prime time” for the heads of those two agencies to strengthen the city’s and county’s relationship.
More information on Potter’s campaign can be found at www.potterforsheriff.com, on Facebook and on Instagram.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed that Potter as having lived in the city of Franklin for over 35 years.