DOBSON — It’s official: there’s a new sheriff in town — or in Surry County.
On Friday afternoon the Surry County Board of Commissioners named Jimmy Combs Surry County Sheriff.
Combs has served as the department’s chief deputy for nearly 15 years, and was sworn into office as the county’s next sheriff immediately following the unanimous vote of county commissioners.
Combs replaces Sheriff Graham Atkinson, who has served as the county’s sheriff since being elected to the office in 2006. In March, Atkinson announced he would depart the sheriff post on Friday. He received a gubernatorial appointment to the state’s Post-Release and Parole Commission.
“I have somewhat mixed feelings about this,” said board Chair Eddie Harris, who went on to explain that he will miss Atkinson, but looks forward to working with Combs.
Atkinson, who had initially penned his resignation letter to be effective at 5 p.m., amended his letter to be effective immediately.
Harris described the working relationship commissioners, who are all Republicans, have had with Atkinson, a Democrat, noting that politics never interfered with doing what was in the best interests of Surry County and its residents.
Commissioner Buck Golding had similar remarks.
“You’ve always been willing to work with commissioners, who do the best we can with the money we have,” said Golding.
“You’re a friend and sheriff I’ve always been proud to have,” said Commissioner Van Tucker. “I look forward to always being your friend.”
Commissioner Larry Johnson, the board’s newest member said he was thankful to have had the opportunity to have “rubbed shoulders” with Atkinson. He has become a friend, and Johnson thanked Atkinson for his service to the county.
Atkinson threw his support behind Combs almost immediately after his announcement, and on Tuesday the Surry County Democratic Executive Committee unanimously recommended Combs be appointed to fill the remainder of Atkinson’s unexpired term.
State statute bound the all-Republican county board to appoint the person who was recommended by the party.
“This badge belongs to the citizens of Surry County,” said Combs. “I am honored and blessed to be able to wear it for you.”
Citing Jesus’ teachings to love God and love thy neighbor, Combs explained the mindset he asks his deputies to maintain. He asks them to think of the person they love the most. When they leave a call, they should be satisfied that the person who made the call received the same treatment as the deputy’s most loved one would get from the officer.
“I want you all to know as my neighbors, I love each and every one of you,” Combs told the crowd that had gathered at the government center.
Combs’ first act as sheriff, after receiving the oath of office from District Court Judge Marion Boone, was to ask Boone to swear in Atkinson as a deputy.
“I just want you all to know this is on an auxiliary, part-time basis,” Atkinson told the county board, explaining that he wanted to maintain his law enforcement certification.
Following that, detention center staff and those deputies on the patrol shift which was working at the time were sworn into office, so they could get back to their responsibilities.
Combs will face a bid to be retained in the post in the 2018 election cycle. Two Republicans — Jamie Goad and Steve Hiatt — have already announced they intend to seek the position in 2018.
A prayer service will be held for Combs at Temple Baptist Church on Sunday at 3 p.m. The public is invited to attend.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.