DOBSON — There will soon be a new sheriff in town.
On Tuesday evening, the Surry County Democratic Executive Committee gave Surry County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jimmy Combs its official nod to fill the shoes of retiring Sheriff Graham Atkinson.
In March, Atkinson offered his letter of resignation, which is effective on Friday. The sheriff, who was first elected to his post in 2006, accepted an appointment to the state’s Post-Release and Parole Commission.
The party met at the courthouse on Tuesday, where they voted unanimously to recommend Combs, 55, for the seat.
Atkinson recommended the committee choose Combs, offering a story about how the two met. At Atkinson’s first day of basic law enforcement training at Surry Community College, he sat down next to Combs, who was seated with “perfect military precision.” He was clean cut and sitting up straight.
“We immediately hated each other,” recounted Atkinson. “That hatred endured for a while, but it grew into tolerance. Then tolerance grew into acceptance, and acceptance grew into friendship. That friendship became brotherhood.”
Atkinson told the 40 or more people in the courtroom that he would never had made the decision to leave the office had he not known it would be in good hands under a Sheriff Combs.
“He is the one person capable of being sheriff in Surry County,” explained Atkinson, who noted he consults with the chief deputy on every decision made for the department.
Surry County Register of Deeds Carolyn Comer also threw her support behind Combs.
“We unanimously and enthusiastically recommend Jimmy Combs for the office of sheriff,” said Surry County Democrat chair Roy Thomasson after the committee voted to recommend Combs fill the position.
“Being in the background, I’ve become a functional mute,” joked Combs as he thanked the party for its support.
“What an honor this is,” said Combs. “I will work diligently each and every day to show myself worthy of the honor you all have bestowed upon me.”
Combs served as chief deputy in the department throughout the duration of Atkinson’s time in office. He also served in the same role for three to four years under Sheriff Connie Watson, Atkinson’s predecessor.
Atkinson threw his support in Combs’ corner shortly after he announced his retirement. Initially, Combs faced opposition for the appointment from Mike Creed, who retired from the sheriff’s office as a lieutenant.
However, shortly after announcing he would seek the appointment, Creed backed out of the running.
The Surry County Board of Commissioners will formally fill the vacancy left by Atkinson at a special meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. on Friday at the county government center. However, the county board, comprised of all Republicans, is bound by statute to follow the recommendation of the Democratic Party since Atkinson is a Democrat.
Combs will be sworn in after the appointment is made by the county board and will fill the remainder of Atkinson’s unexpired term in office.
He had stated that, if appointed, he would run a bid to be retained in the seat in the 2018 election cycle.
Atkinson asked those present on Tuesday to get behind Combs in the 2018 election, as he already has opposition.
Two Republicans — Steve Hiatt and Jamie Goad — have already announced they will seek the office Combs will soon hold.
Though Combs said he has decided who will fill the chief deputy position he will officially vacate on Friday, he declined to identify the person, noting he wanted to make the announcement to his department prior to releasing the information to the media.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.