He’ll always be the Sheriff

Published 10:04 am Thursday, September 29, 2016

WINTON – When an individual serves the public with grace, dignity and professionalism for over 30 years, it’s a safe bet that a crowd will gather to say good-bye when that person retires.

Such was the case for Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan who was the subject of numerous accolades, gifts, plaques of appreciation, and the brunt of a few jokes, at his retirement party held here Sept. 23 at the Elks Shrine in Winton.

“It’s been a great ride,” said Vaughan, who announced earlier this month he was retiring effective Oct. 1 after 35 years in law enforcement, the last 18 of which he served as Sheriff.

“Thank you for five terms as your Sheriff; I will miss serving the citizens of this county as well as the county administration,” he continued. “To my officers, I’m going to miss you all. You guys have stood by my side.”

Vaughan said his wife already has a “honey-do” list waiting.

“I’m pretty sure Gail will find plenty for me to do,” he laughed.

“I’m looking forward to going home, but please, don’t forget where I live; please stop by and see me,” Vaughan added. “I may hit the road every once in a while, but I’m going to still be here in Hertford County. Pray for me; I’m going to need it.”

The podium was busy on Friday as Vaughan’s friends and family along with his colleagues in law enforcement and justice spoke favorably to his stellar career.

“It’s bittersweet for us in the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Vaughan has been a dedicated servant of the people for over 35 years. We appreciate his work; we love you, boss,” said HCSO Chief Deputy Will Liverman.

Lt. Dexter Hayes, Chief of the HCSO Investigations Division who was appointed earlier this week as Interim Sheriff, also had kind words for his mentor.

“Thank you Sheriff for allowing me to work with you for the past 13 and one half years. You can learn a lot just by watching him and listening to him. I feel that I’ve matured as a law enforcement officer under him. I love you and God bless you,” Hayes remarked.

State House Representative Howard Hunter III presented Vaughan with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest honor. That award came from Governor Pat McCrory.

“Juan Vaughan is a great Sheriff, a great man and a great friend. During his time as Sheriff, he and his staff have solved 100 percent of the murders in Hertford County. He is a selfless Sheriff. He and his staff have a relentless work ethic, promoting safety and justice,” stated Hunter.

Retired Hertford County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Ronnie Stallings said he was one of Vaughan’s training officers back in 1981 when Juan first joined the Sheriff’s Office.

“I can remember the time when Juan and I both had dark hair and we could actually see our belt buckles,” Stallings said as the audience erupted in laughter.

“Juan Vaughan, we’ve had a lot of good times, but we’ve never had a bad time with each other,” Stallings continued. “Sure, we have disagreed over things at times, but we’ve never been disagreeable. We always went home with the same attitude.”

Stallings shared some advice with the Sheriff’s wife.

“Gail, let him enjoy and do what he wants for the rest of 2016, but when Jan. 1, 2017 rolls around, give him that leash,” Stallings stated, again to a thunderous roar from the audience.

Northampton Sheriff Jack Smith said he knew Vaughan back when he was at Murfreesboro High School.

“He was a superstar playing basketball,” Smith recalled. “God has been good to him over the years. He’s been blessed to enjoy a long career. Hertford County has been blessed to have a Sheriff that has been so dedicated to his job as a public servant. He has assembled people such as himself, building a staff of dedicated officers. The citizens will miss you; I will miss you. I wish you a great retirement.”

Ronald Gatling, Chairman of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, shared a funny story about accompanying Vaughan on a trip to Raleigh, but turned serious by saying, “We have had a great relationship with Sheriff Vaughan over the years. He has done a great job for the county. He had given of himself for over 30 years to serve our county. It takes a special person to do that because he took away from the time he could have enjoyed with his wife and children.”

Retired Hertford County Deputy Wesley Liverman was among those that trained Vaughan when he first joined the HCSO in 1991.

“The good Lord has blessed you for thirty some years. And remember, no man is better than the lady standing with him. Juan Vaughan, you have a heart of gold,” Liverman stated.

He told a story about then Sheriff James Baker (who first hired Vaughan) having the county to purchase new .357 Colt pistols for his deputies.

“At that time we were doing a lot of drug eradication and we were down on River Road looking for a field of marijuana,” Liverman recalled. “It was thick in there; we plowed on through there, pulled up all those plants and carried them back out to the road. Juan came up to me and said, ‘Dog (Liverman’s nickname), I’ve lost my pistol.’ I told him we would go back and find it because I didn’t want to face Sheriff Baker, telling him that Juan has lost his brand new pistol.

“I wish you all the best, Sheriff Vaughan; I love you,” Liverman concluded.

Vaughan’s career was also praised by those within the judicial community.

“There’s a reason why he served 35 years and a reason why for nearly 20 years no one filed to run against him. There’s a reason why we’re here today. That reason is because Juan Vaughan is a dedicated law enforcement officer. He strives to make his department the best it can be. He requires his officers to uphold the standards he set. I have found in working with him he always tries to make things better. I applaud his staff; I applaud his officers; I applaud him,” said Chief District Court Judge Brenda Branch.

“When I first moved here in 1993, one of the first people I met was Juan Vaughan. Ever since he’s been Sheriff, I’ve found it very easy to work with him and his department. He has led a wonderful department, full of professionals, and that fact has made my job much easier. Juan has respect for people; he knows how to talk to people…not everyone can say that,” remarked District 6 Attorney Valerie Asbell

Asbell presented Vaughan with a special plaque and gave his wife a gift.

Tracy Duncan of Maryland said she drove 200 miles to attend Vaughan’s retirement celebration. She is the mother of Trayvon Duncan, a Chowan University student murdered in December of 2015 at a nightclub near Murfreesboro

“When we first met with Sheriff Vaughan he promised me that they would find the person who killed my only child,” Duncan recalled.  “We got that call six months later. I am so grateful and appreciative of the work of Sheriff Vaughan and his officers. I wish you the best in your retirement.”

Bobby Williams, Vaughan’s brother-in-law, shared the “family side” of the honoree.

“Ya’ll have said how Juan is a good Sheriff; well I’m here to tell you what a great family man he is. He’s a good man; he’s a good person. We see him as a good person in our family; as Sheriff he’s fair and honest with everyone,” Williams stressed.

“Juan is one of the sweetest and humbled men that you’ll ever meet,” said his sister, Gail Lorenzo. “He is my heart; he is the family’s heart. He is the love of our life. We thank God for Hertford County treating him so well. We thank you as a family for loving and honoring him for all these years.”

Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh and Murfreesboro PD Chief Darrell Rowe both expressed their gratitude of the cooperation they always enjoyed between those two agencies and the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office. Both men said help in their towns was just a phone call away to Vaughan.

“There will be another Sheriff of this county, but there will never be another Juan Vaughan,” said Chief Rowe.

Dwight Ransome, retired from North Carolina SBI, recalled the first day Vaughan “checked on” on the radio as a Hertford County Deputy.

“I was working then for the Ahoskie Police; Juan and I go back a long, long way,” Ransome reminisced. “We built a friendship back then. Everything said up to this point about him is true.”

Ransome shared a story of the compassion he knew burned in the heart of Vaughan. That story was about a missing 5-year-old girl from Cofield and both he and Vaughan had an eerie feeling that this case would end as a homicide.

“I remember when they found that little girl alive and she ran into the arms of her mom and dad, Juan and I stood in that yard and hugged; we stood there crying like two babies. That’s the kind the person Juan is,” Ransome said.

Honey Brown said she worked for over 15 years for Vaughan as a staff member of the Hertford County Jail.

“He has a heart of gold; the man you see here today is the man he always has been,” Brown said.

As a token of his long years of dedicated service, Vaughan was presented his badge and his service revolver by members of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners.

“It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with someone who loves the law as much as Juan,” said Hertford County Manager Loria Williams. “And he has instilled that love into his officers. I wish you, Gail, and your family all the blessings the Lord can bestow.”

With that, Juan Vaughan took his place for the first time in 35 years as an ordinary citizen. However, he will always be the Sheriff.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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