Sheriff picks Combs for replacement

By Andy Winemiller -

DOBSON — As some are jockeying for position to become Surry County’s next sheriff, Graham Atkinson said on Thursday he wants his right-hand man to get the post.

The sheriff said Chief Deputy Jimmy Combs is the only person for the job.

Atkinson tendered a letter of resignation last week, announcing he will step down from the post on April 28. He has been the county’s sheriff since 2006.

Atkinson is moving on to another opportunity, having been asked by Gov. Roy Cooper to serve on the state’s Post-Release and Parole Commission.

“I’m supremely confident if I got in the car this minute and drove away, the department wouldn’t miss a beat with Jimmy Combs at the helm,” said Atkinson of his chief deputy.

Atkinson said he and Combs met in Basic Law Enforcement Training more than three decades ago. Combs has been Atkinson’s chief deputy throughout the sheriff’s decade in office. He also served as chief deputy for three to four years under Atkinson’s predecessor, Connie Watson.

“He has been a part of every major decision made at the sheriff’s office since before I took over,” touted Atkinson. “He is always in the room when we make a decision.”

The Surry County Democratic Executive Committee will choose Atkinson’s replacement for the remainder of his term in office.

That entity, by statute, is required to make a recommendation to the Surry County Board of Commissioners (which is comprised of five Republicans) within 30 days of the effective date of Atkinson’s resignation, April 28.

Once the Democrats forward their recommendation to the county, the board is bound by statute to appoint the recommended individual.

For the period of time in which the position of sheriff remains vacant, Combs would lead the department, another matter which is addressed by state statute.

The appointee will face a bid to be retained in the 2018 election cycle.

Atkinson said he is already hearing rumors regarding others who might be jockeying for a run in the next election.

He said he wants the right person for Surry County and its residents in the position, and Combs is the only person for the job.

Democrats hold few seats in Surry County, and the advantage of entering a race as an incumbent isn’t one party leadership is likely to want to give up.

However, Atkinson said Combs is ready to step up to the plate to run the office in the short-term and to be the elected sheriff for the long-term.

“He’s the only person I would have ever considered to be chief deputy,” said Atkinson. “He’s been by my side through everything, including the campaigns.”

Atkinson said those experiences make Combs the best man for sheriff and the best man to represent the party in future election cycles.

By Andy Winemiller

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

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