Southampton County sheriff candidate: Tommy Potter

Published 4:44 pm Saturday, October 21, 2023

1.) Can you briefly summarize why you decided to run for election as sheriff?

As most know, we sought this position four years ago and came up short. We have watched as law enforcement has been challenged over the last four years, and unfortunately, we have seen where our local Sheriff has fallen short in meeting the needs of our community. Because of this, we decided to explore the option of running for Sheriff again. We fully believe that we need a Sheriff who is Accountable to our citizens. Focused on building a culture where staff is appreciated and respected and an agency that is engaged with every community within Southampton County and Franklin. We also know that relationships between other law enforcement agencies and community partners must be utilized and a priority.

2.) What experience and achievements would you cite that support your bid as being the best candidate to serve as sheriff for the next four years?

I have over 25 years of progressive law enforcement experience in the public and private sectors. I am the only candidate running for Sheriff who has spent time patrolling the streets of Franklin. I began my law enforcement career as a police officer for the Franklin Police Department. I have supervised and led security specialists in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in efforts to protect and rebuild New Orleans after it was devastated by Katrina. Seventeen months were spent as a law enforcement advisor and executive mentor in Afghanistan. While there, I spent countless hours traveling the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan as a mentor, trainer, and advisor. After sustaining a severe injury and months of rehabilitation, I returned home and went to work for The Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office. I have held every position within the Sheriff’s Office. Before my current assignment as operations captain, I was the Chief Investigator for the Sheriff’s Office. In that position, our investigators were so successful that we had three national documentaries focused on our efforts to solve crimes and bring closure to crime victims. Currently, as Operations Commander, I oversee all operations within one of the fastest-growing localities in Virginia. I handle all fleet management, procurement, and a military surplus program recognized as a model program throughout Virginia. I am passionate about the CrimeLIne program and have been recognized as CrimeLIne Coordinator of the Year for the Hampton Roads area.

3.) What do you believe are the most important qualities of a good sheriff?

A sheriff must be able to communicate the goals and objectives of the agency. A sheriff must be able to make tough decisions but also understand how those decisions affect the community. A Sheriff must admit that mistakes can be made and explain what actions have been taken to correct those mistakes. Lastly, a Sheriff must never forget that the authority given to them comes directly from the community they are privileged to serve.

4.) What goals would you like to achieve during the next four years if you are elected?

Over the next four years, the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office will become an Accredited agency. Achieving accreditation conveys to our community that we have up-to-date policies and that these policies guide all that we do. Our Sheriff’s office currently operates on outdated policies that do not rise to the expectations of the communities they serve. We must recruit and retain qualified individuals to work for the Sheriff’s Office. We have to stop the revolving door of staff within the agency. Over the past 2 ½ years, the current Sheriff has hired 78 individuals, but at the same time, 60 have left the agency. We need to identify why so many have left during this time.

5.) Is there anything that has been said about you by your opponent or others during the campaign that you would like to directly counter or respond to in this space?

My opponent stresses his visibility within the community. From social functions to funerals, he touts his presence at these events. While we embrace the need for community involvement, we understand the importance of being visible and engaged within the office. The Sheriff needs to set the tone within the agency. Currently, policies are incomplete and outdated. The revolving door of staff needs to be addressed. Recruitment and retention should be a priority, along with the health and wellness of current deputies. As Sheriff, we must work hard to provide them with the resources to meet the challenges of the job, not just show up for a photo op!