DOBSON — A few Republicans are already jockeying for position in the 2018 race for Surry County Sheriff.
Though there are others said to be considering a run at the post on the Republican ticket, Jamie Goad Jr. and Steve Hiatt have publicly declared they will seek the office in 2018.
Both men reside in Mount Airy, and both have been voting as Republicans since at least 2006, according to voting records.
Hiatt sought the office in 2006 and lost against Democratic Sheriff Graham Atkinson in that election. Goad has never sought public office.
Atkinson recently announced he will be leaving office on April 28 to take a job on the state Post-Release and Parole Board.
Two Democrats, Chief Deputy Jimmy Combs and Mike Creed, who retired as a lieutenant from the sheriff’s office, have announced they will seek the appointment to fill Atkinson’s unexpired term.
Goad, 43, said Atkinson’s recent announcement had no effect on his decision to seek election.
“I want to point out I have had the ambition to run since I left,” said Goad, who resigned as a patrol sergeant with the sheriff’s office in 2015 after a little more than 20 years on the job.
“There are a lot of people coming out of the woodwork now,” added Goad. “I was going to run against Graham (Atkinson).”
Goad said he resigned from the office as a result of differences in opinion with the sheriff.
“I want to bring change in that office,” declared Goad.
He noted when he began working at the department in 1995, he made the fifth deputy on a five-person patrol shift. Twenty years later, with more than three times the call volume, there are still only five deputies on each patrol shift. The city of Mount Airy, with fewer miles and residents to cover, has seven officers on each shift.
Goad said the manning troubles are a result of misplaced priorities in the office.
He noted in 2015, pay raises of $10,000 to $18,000 went to four top deputies, including Combs and Creed, in the office.
“He (Atkinson) has spent the past two years trying to justify those raises,” said Goad.
Atkinson has stated it was cheaper to give the raises and keep the officers on duty than to pay the county’s portion of their retirement.
Goad also said the 2016 hiring of a captain, a position added by the Surry County Board of Commissioners at the behest of Atkinson, is another example of Atkinson having the wrong priorities.
“He should have been hiring more deputies instead. Morale is terrible in the office,” explained Goad. “A lot of people in the public and from that office are wanting me to run.”
Goad said his first order of business should he win in the 2018 election will be placing more patrol officers on the streets instead of paying more money to deputies in administrative roles.
He said more visibility in the community will improve the opinions of the office among Surry County’s residents, and more back-up available will make deputies more at ease while on shift.
“Some of these deputies don’t even need more money. They just want more help,” added Goad.
The sheriff-hopeful also said he sees a need for additional narcotics detectives, with the rise of opioids and other drug use in the county.
Like the other three candidates for the position, Hiatt, 53, is a long-time veteran of the sheriff’s office.
Hiatt said he started work at the office in 1984 and retired in 2012. He served in multiple roles throughout his 28-year tenure, including leading the patrol and civil divisions as a lieutenant.
Since his retirement, he has worked security on a part-time basis and has maintained his credentials as a sworn law officer.
“With the sheriff’s recent announcement and other folks considering running, I thought I’d get my name out there first,” said Hiatt.
While the timing may be right in 2018, Hiatt has long looked at the position of sheriff to be a pinnacle on a career in law enforcement.
“It has been a life-long ambition of mine,” added Hiatt. “I didn’t make the decision lightly, though. I gave it a lot of consideration.”
He said he has received a great level of encouragement from his family and friends, and one of his first orders of business will be to play a proactive role in rooting out Surry County’s drug problem.
“The numbers are staggering,” said Hiatt of drug overdose data and drug use in Surry county. “We need more education, more treatment, and we need to enforce the laws to counter Surry County’s drug problem.”
Under a Sheriff Hiatt, there would be a focus on relationships, said the retired deputy.
“I believe deputies should be forming close-knit relationships in the community and with other law enforcement agencies,” explained Hiatt.
Hiatt noted he too would make some changes in the office should voters give him the nod in 2018.
“My job is to build a team,” said Hiatt. “I would bring in my own command staff.”
Hiatt noted he’s ready to run a campaign regardless of who is appointed to the sheriff role for the remainder of Atkinson’s term.
“I think with my time as a deputy I have the tools necessary to successfully lead the office,” said Hiatt. “I also think I have the knowledge, character and skill to lead the office in a positive direction.”
Surry County Board of Elections Director Susan Jarrell said a candidate for office has 10 days from the date he or she publicly announces a candidacy to file campaign finance paperwork with her office.
Jarrell noted Goad had picked up paperwork but had not returned it as of Friday morning. Hiatt had not picked up or filed the paperwork. However, both candidates have time remaining to file.
Combs and Creed are not yet required to file campaign finance paperwork since those two have only declared they will run in 2018 if appointed to fill the remainder of Atkinson’s term.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.