DOBSON — The Surry County Democratic Party held its Democratic Convention April 7 at the courthouse.
Among those attending were two candidates for Congress: Jenny Marshall and D.D. Adams, both of Winston-Salem, who are running for the 5th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives held by Virginia Foxx. Adams is a member of the Winston-Salem city council, while Marshall says she is a school teacher and former small business owner.
For the N.C. General Assembly, John Worth Wiles, Elkin, is running for the 90th District House seat, and Michael Booth, King, is vying for the 91st District seat.
In the state Senate races, Brandon Anderson, Millers Creek, is running for the 45th District against, oddly, two incumbents. Shirley Randleman and Deanna Ballard are both in the General Assembly now, but with the realignment of voting districts, the two women live in the same territory.
Jen Mangrum, Reidsville, who is running for the 30th District, was not able to attend, but sent her campaign manager, said Roy Thomasson, chairman of the Surry County Democratic Party.
At the county level, two candidates are running for clerk of court: Kim Thomas and John Snow, both of Dobson.
For the county Board of Commissioners, Karen Osburn-Chandler, Thurmond, is taking on incumbent Eddie Harris for the South District seat.
Sheriff Jimmy Combs, appointed to his post almost a year ago, will run in his first election with four Republicans vying for a spot opposite on the ballot.
School board races are nonpartisan, but Pilot Mountain resident Mamie McKinney Sutphin attended as she seeks re-election to the District 2 board seat for Surry County Schools.
Thomasson said the county party needed to elect a new treasurer and voted in James Ciancio of Pilot Mountain.
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Editor’s Note: A member of the Surry County Sheriff’s Office did shoot a video of Sheriff Jimmy Combs’ speech at the courthouse Saturday morning and shared that video with local media.
Combs said when he was at the courthouse almost a year ago to be sworn into office, he was so nervous he thought he might need to keep a trash can handy.
“I made some bold statements that day,” he said. “One of them I said, ‘I’ve been preparing for this job for 30 years. I’ve worked under three different sheriffs. For two of them … I was their chief deputy, so I was in control or in charge of every aspect of the sheriff’s office.’
“I also said, ‘The mill is not closing. We’re retooling, we’re hiring, and we’re preparing to increase production.’”
After taking over the department, Combs said, “I kept everybody. I kept them and told them this was a team. And I told them also that the Bible says, ‘Love thy Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind. And thy neighbor as thyself.’ And I said, ‘When you go on a call, I don’t care race, creed or color. I don’t care how much money they have. I don’t care how they’re registered. I expect you to treat them with dignity. I expect you to treat them with respect and courtesy.’”
From the drop in complaints, he said he honestly believes the officers are putting those concepts into action.
Almost a year later, he said here is his report card on the office.
“We reorganized the narcotics division. As of today we have executed 48 search warrants. We have seized over five and a half pounds of methamphetamines. We have seized almost a pound of cocaine … over half a pound of heroin and over four pounds of marijuana. We’ve seized 53 guns and almost $80,000.”
“We also implemented a middle school DARE program called ‘Keeping It Real,’” he said. “It’s to teach them to deal with peer pressure … bullying. It’s also to give our DARE officer one-on-one contact in the classroom.”
He has continued the lockdown drills started under Graham Atkinson, practicing for the possibility of having an active shooter on a school campus.
There has been some discussion among the county Board of Commissioners of increasing security for schools, even possibly hiring school resource officers for the 14 elementary schools across the county.
As for his part, Combs said, “I went to each municipality. I talked to Shawn (Myers, Dobson police chief). I talked to Darryl (Bottoms) over in Pilot. I asked them to do walk-throughs in the county schools that are in their cities. I talked with the Highway Patrol and I asked them, ‘The schools that don’t have SRO officers, will you concentrate your security walk-throughs in those schools?’ We use our patrol officers also to go out to the schools that don’t have school resource officers.”
He implemented a body camera program. He knew that some people would be for it and some against.
“I want the Surry County Sheriff’s Office to be as transparent to its citizens as it can possibly be. Everybody that’s in uniform on patrol wears a body camera and everyone in the detention center.”
Combs became emotional talking about Sheriff Atkinson’s Give a Kid a Christmas Foundation that was started last year to continue the efforts begun under his longtime friend many years ago.
“Because you were willing to open your hearts, 700 Surry County children walked through a living room door and …” he started, before his voice cracked. “And they were able to open presents they would not have had. And when they walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, there was food.”
Four Republican candidates for sheriff will square off in the May 8 primary. The winner will advance to face Combs in the November election.
Jeff Linville may be reached at 336-415-4692.