DOBSON — Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson will leave his post next month to accept a job with the state.
Atkinson said his resignation will be effective on April 28.
The sheriff said Gov. Roy Cooper offered him a post on the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission on Wednesday.
“I had spoken to some of the transition people,” said Atkinson
Back in August, Atkinson was named president of the N.C. Sheriff’s Association. He thought the conversations in recent months with the governor’s staff simply niceties following Cooper’s winning campaign.
“It hit me like a left hook,” said Atkinson of the job offer. “I wasn’t expecting that call.”
Atkinson explained the commission reviews whether inmates have met their benchmarks for release and assigns them to the appropriate release programs.
The sheriff called the decision to leave his post with the county emotional and announcing the decision extraordinarily hard.
He noted he’s unsure how much time he will have to spend in Raleigh to fulfill the obligations of the new post, but he does believe many of his days will be spent in the capital city.
Atkinson has served as the county’s sheriff since being elected to the post in 2006. He beat Republican Steve Hiatt by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent.
In 2010, a year in which Republicans swept most races, Atkinson, a Democrat, defeated Republican challenger Dan Kiger by more than 3,000 votes. In 2014, Atkinson defeated his Republican challenger, Ervin Odum, by a margin of more than 70 percent to 30 percent.
Prior to taking on the top job at the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, Atkinson had worked as a deputy and in supervisory roles for the office since being hired by Sheriff Bill Hall on his 21st birthday in 1985.
Atkinson is also known for his “Give a Kid a Christmas” program, in which law enforcement officials take children Christmas shopping. The sheriff started the program 27 years ago while serving as a deputy with the department.
The process to fill Atkinson’s shoes will start with the Surry County Democrat Executive Committee, which meets on Tuesday evening, said the sheriff. The committee will have 30 days to make a recommendation as to whom it believes should fill Atkinson’s position.
State statute indicates the county Board of Commissioners “shall elect the person recommended by the county executive committee of that party” to fill the vacancy. Should the party fail to make a recommendation within 30 days of the vacancy occurring, the county board would be able to fill the position at its discretion.
Atkinson noted he will make a recommendation regarding his replacement to his fellow Democrats at the party’s executive committee meeting on Tuesday.
Per statute, when the position becomes vacant, the Sheriff’s Office’s chief deputy will fill the position of sheriff until the post is permanently filled.