Holley appointed Sheriff

Published 3:28 pm Saturday, February 6, 2010

WINDSOR – There’s a new sheriff in town.

John D. Holley took the oath of office at approximately 2:20 p.m. on Friday to become the Sheriff of Bertie County after being appointed to the post by a unanimous vote of the Bertie County Commissioners.

Sheriff Holley was appointed after the resignation of former Bertie County Sheriff Greg Atkins, who asked that Holley be appointed in his place.

Atkins, who did not intend to seek reelection after more than a decade in office, wanted to support Holley in the upcoming election. An interpretation of the Hatch Act, however, would have prevented Holley from seeking the office unless he held the position of sheriff. Until Friday, Holley served as Chief Deputy.

The Bertie County Commissioners gathered in the Superior Courtroom at 2 p.m. to a crowd of more than 50 people as they began deliberations about the appointment.

Commission Chairman Norman M. Cherry Sr. called the meeting to order and officially announced Sheriff Atkins’ resignation.

“It is the responsibility of the board, in the absence of a sheriff, to appoint someone until such time as there is an election,” Cherry said.

He then said two people had written letters of interest in the post. They were Holley and former sheriff’s candidate Eddie Graham.

Cherry then recognized Graham to make comments about his desire to fill the sheriff’s post.

“I’m here to remind you that it is your responsibility to make the best decision for the people of Bertie County,” Graham said. “In the last election, I ran for sheriff and received over 1,000 votes and I believe you should take that into consideration.”

Holley was offered the opportunity to speak as well, but chose to allow his letter to speak for itself.

Cherry then closed the comments and told the board it was time to begin deliberations. Commissioner J. Wallace Perry, himself a former sheriff, said he had a statement and a motion.

“I was elected sheriff in Bertie County in 1982,” Perry said. “Shortly after that, I had the opportunity to fill a position in the office and I hired John Holley early in 1983. He was a loyal and faithful employee to me and to the citizens of Bertie County until I retired in 1998.

“He has traveled this county extensively and I dare say nobody knows the county better than he does,” Perry added. “There’s not much that can be brought before him that he wouldn’t have seen before.”

Perry then said he thought Holley was the right person for the job.

“Due to his knowledge, he is capable of taking the office and running the department as it should be,” Perry said, and then made the motion to appoint Holley as sheriff.

Commissioner Rick Harrell offered a second and then the motion passed by a unanimous vote, making Holley not only the new sheriff, but the first African-American to hold the post in Bertie County.

Superior Court Judge Cy Grant then administered the oath of office to Holley.

“First of all, I’d like to give honor to God for being here today,” the new sheriff said in his first public comments.

He then thanked his family and the commissioners for their support.

“I will do my best to serve all of the people of Bertie County,” he said. “I look forward to serving you as the next sheriff.”

Cherry then asked for comments from Atkins.

“I want to thank all the people for allowing me to serve the last 11 years,” Atkins said. “It has been an honor and a privilege.”

Atkins then added, “I’m proud to have John Holley as my sheriff.”

Among those in attendance was Holley’s mother, Bertha Holley, who said she was very proud of her son.

“It makes you feel very good when you see someone doing the right thing,” she said.

Following the adjournment of the meeting, Holley took a few moments to speak to the media in attendance.

“It’s a different feeling,” he said of becoming sheriff. “It makes you think. I am now the person who in responsible for the overall duties of the sheriff’s office. Our number one goal will be to protect and serve the people of Bertie County.”

As for being the first African-American sheriff, Holley said it was important, but would not affect his daily work.

“I think it’s a milestone, but it really doesn’t faze me,” the sheriff said. “I’m here for only one thing and that’s to do a job.”

By state statue, those in the sheriff’s office serve at the pleasure of the sheriff, meaning their employment ceased when Holley was sworn in. Those officers, however, were sworn in under Holley and will remain in their current posts at this time.

Holley promotion to sheriff, however, left a vacancy at Chief Deputy. He has made an offer for the spot, but an official announcement will come later.

“I talked with Greg Atkins and asked that he consider staying on,” Sheriff Holley said. “He has 11 years as sheriff and more than 20 with the department and I think he would be a real asset.”

Following his appointment, Sheriff Holley was greeted by a crowd that included Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan, Martin County Sheriff Dan Gibbs, Judge Cy Grant, Judge Alfred W. Kwasikpui, District Attorney Valerie Asbell, North Carolina Highway Patrol First Sergeant Todd Lane, Senator Ed Jones, Bertie County Register of Deeds Belinda White, Clerk of Superior Court John C.P. Tyler, school board member Gloria C. Lee and Pamela Chamblee and a host of citizens.