There’s a new sheriff in town.
In the political race that stunned many across the county, Democrat Danny Rogers upset longtime Republican Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes by pulling in 104,243 for 53 percent of the vote to Barnes’ 94,010 for 47 percent.
Barnes, who was first elected in 1994 and has served as sheriff of Guilford County ever since, was often jokingly referred to as the “sheriff for life.”
The sheriff got a little bit of a scare four years ago when Rogers ran against him, but in the end Barnes won that race. This time, when all the votes were counted, Rogers came out victorious after a heated campaign.
Rogers said that, on election night, he was getting ready to head to the election event at the Greensboro Coliseum and, just after 7:30 p.m., his phone started ringing and text messages started flooding in. Though Rogers hadn’t realized it, the Guilford County Board of Elections had just posted the early vote totals and they showed Rogers had a wide lead. Though that lead narrowed some over the course of the evening, the outcome was never really in doubt.
Rogers said that, going into the race, he had a good feeling about his chances.
“I felt hopeful; I had faith,” Rogers said.
Rogers has served as a Guilford County detention officer and sheriff’s deputy and as a High Point police officer.
During the campaign he said the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department needed a major overhaul to better serve the needs of the people and he lodged a number of accusations against Barnes. He said the department’s chase policy had led to the deaths of citizens, and he blamed the department for inmate deaths. He also pointed to inmate escapes from county jails during Barnes’ tenure. In addition, Rogers claimed the department had a poor record of promoting and hiring blacks.
Barnes, who got a large number of endorsements including one from former Democratic Guilford County Sheriff Walter “Sticky” Burch, challenged many of those claims in an statement published in the Thursday, Nov. 1 issue of the Rhino Times.
Barnes also pointed out that Rogers had seen a string of criminal charges filed against him in the past, including three charges of assault on a female.
Rogers does not deny that he has had run-ins with the law but he said that he has learned from his experiences and has matured, and he said that that past, along with his faith, has prepared him to take on the highest law enforcement job in Guilford County. He said he’s thankful he has this opportunity to serve the people of Guilford County and his life can be an example to others.
“People are hearing my story and realizing that they too can pursue their dream,” he said Tuesday night after the results were in.
He said there’s a lot of work to do on the Sheriff’s Department.
“The first thing will be to reassess and reevaluate the Sheriff’s Office and meet with every employee,” he said.
He said that, throughout the campaign, he made the community his focus.
“I did not focus on BJ,” Rogers said. “The community of Guilford County was my focus. I saw the needs of the county’s citizens.”
He also said the Sheriff’s Department currently does not adequately address the needs of the inner cities and some rural areas in the county.
Rogers said he’s aware of the fact that, with Barnes being sheriff for so long, he knows there’s a loyal core of officers who are used to working with Barnes, but he said he’s going to conduct a smooth transition and he’s confident that those in the department will work with him to improve the department.
“I think it’s a professional business,” Rogers said. “We are there to protect and serve the community. We all have a job to do and have taken an oath.”
The day before the election, Barnes was meeting with Guilford County staff to discuss the plans for a coming move of the department’s headquarters – but soon that will be Rogers’ concern.
Barnes even hinted that he might run again four years from now. At least, he said, “Never say never.”
Barnes said he’d met with County Manager Marty Lawing to discuss the new Sheriff’s Department administrative office.
A day before the election, Barnes said that after the election, if he won, the first thing he was going to do is work at the state level to get legislation passed that would make it so that those with Roger’s past would not be eligible to run for sheriff.
Barnes said that there were a lot of things he wanted to wrap up in the next four years, including the move to the new headquarters and other initiatives.
“I want to finish what I need to finish,” Barnes said.
Now he will not get that chance.