Heartfelt farewell

Published 6:57 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2023

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AHOSKIE – Professionalism, integrity, and fairness…those three words are held close to the heart of law enforcement officers who live by the oath they took upon accepting the responsibility of serving and protecting others.

Jimmy Asbell has built a career around those words. And now with his retirement as Chief of the Ahoskie Police, Asbell remains steadfast in making sure those who remain standing watch over his town follow the examples he set.

After 30-plus years as a police officer, Asbell retired Oct. 20. One day later, a celebration of his career was held at the Roanoke-Chowan Shrine Club.

“There are so many people I would like to thank and there is no way I can name each person here tonight, but please know that I love each and every person in this room that has touched my life professionally or personally and has helped me along the way because I did not get here by myself,” Asbell humbly said in his remarks.

Among those sharing stories about Jimmy Asbell’s law enforcement career was the man who hired him – former Ahoskie Police Chief Steve Hoggard (right). Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

He thanked his wife, Valerie; his sons, Cole and Ethan; his mother, Betty; his sister, Lorie; and many other family members in attendance, to include his “church family.” He lovingly remembered his late father, a proud member of the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division who made the military a career.

From a professional level, Asbell stressed that he had the opportunity to work with “some incredible law enforcement officers who were able to teach me the vital importance of the Thin Blue Line.”

“Working with mentors like Steve Hoggard, Mike Williams, Wesley Liverman, Dwight Ransome, Frank Timberlake, Raymond Eure and Troy Fitzhugh early in my career helped me understand the significance of honesty and integrity in every facet of our job. I would not be the man or the law enforcement officer I am today without the influence of these great people who came before me,” Asbell stressed.

He offered praise for his work family – the Ahoskie Police.

“Together we achieved great things and built a wonderful work family and team atmosphere that you should be proud of,” Asbell said. “To [APD Major] Justin Farmer, thank you for serving as my right hand and second in command since I became Chief and for helping me lead this department successfully and for bringing professionalism and fresh new ideas in an ever changing profession.”

Asbell left a few nuggets of wisdom for his officers and others in law enforcement.

“Doing the right thing is not always easy, especially when you are being constantly criticized. Do not succumb to pressures of this world and make decisions that go against doing the right thing,” he stated. “Before making a decision, ask yourself these questions: is what I am doing professional; is what I am doing done with integrity and is it right; and is what I am doing done in fairness?

“Always remember above all else, what you do matters. How you do your job matters. The world needs brave men and women like you. I love you all and may God continue to bless you,” Asbell concluded.

Jimmy Asbell receives the prestigious North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine from longtime family friend Iris Williams. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Saturday’s celebration included remarks from those with family and professional ties with the honoree.

Timberlake, former commander of the Roanoke Chowan Narcotics Task Force, talked about the close relationship he built with Asbell and others in the profession.

“We are family; when we went into any situation, we knew someone had our back. We worked together; we all cared about each other. I love my family,” Timberlake stressed.

He jokingly referred to Asbell as a “GQ” officer, saying that his colleague’s uniform was always neatly pressed with all law enforcement accessories in their proper place.

Six months ago, Timberlake’s medical condition had deteriorated to the point where he was given two weeks to live. He was sent home where Hospice waited.

“I’ll never forget that ride home, looking out the window and thinking this is the last time I’ll see the outside world,” Timberlake recalled, his voice quivering with emotion. “I’m a lot better now, but still have some breathing problems. But I said that to say this to you…Jimmy, go enjoy life. You don’t know what tomorrow holds, you may get that ‘two-week’ speech from your doctor. You’ve done your duty, now is your time.”

Hoggard, Ahoskie’s former police chief, hired Asbell as a rookie officer in 1991.

“I liked him immediately; I liked the way he carried himself,” Hoggard said. “He was very polite, well-spoken, and well-mannered. He knew how to talk to people and you can’t do this job successfully without knowing how to talk to folks, firmly but respectfully.”

Hoggard added that Asbell was “very teachable.”

“He listened to the advice offered and put that advice to work,” Hoggard said. “I’m so proud of how his career moved forward into the position he is now retiring from. I’m proud of the man you are, the father you are, and the husband you are.

“I hope you enjoy retirement with your beautiful wife…you’ve both earned it after esteemed careers in public service,” Hoggard concluded.

Liverman, retired Commander of the R-C Drug Task Force, echoed Hoggard’s remarks, saying that Asbell was “an outstanding officer who carried yourself well.”

“I thought of several words that describe Jimmy Asbell: honesty, knowledge, integrity, devotion, determination, expertise, loyalty, and trustworthy. You had ‘em all.”

Liverman noted the long hours that police officers must spend away from their families.

“You work all day, go home, and get called out again at night,” he said. “It’s a demanding and dangerous job. It calls for a woman in your life that’s understanding and patient…that’s you, Valerie, you’ve stood with Jimmy. I hope this transition into retirement will allow both of you to spend more quality time together.”

Ransome, retired from the SBI, told Asbell that “in life, we never lose friends, we just learn who our true friends really are.”

“True friends come and find you in dark places and bring you back to the light,” he continued. “Life is about being real, being humble, and being kind….keep that up my friend.”

Jimmy Asbell (center) receives framed mementoes of his law enforcement career from Ahoskie Police Detectives Stephen White (left) and Tom Helms. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

“Heroes are the ones who do what has to be done, when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences. There are people who teach us about sacrifice everyday. Thank-you to the law enforcement officers who sacrifice to teach others. Congratulations on your retirement, my friend, May God continue to bless you and your family,” Ransome concluded.

Williams, a former Ahoskie Police officer who now works with the Federal Air Marshal Service in Kansas, remarked that he was in awe of the progress that his former department has made under the leadership of Asbell.

“I look at where we were back then and see the competitive salaries of officers today that Jimmy fought for, as well as Troy Fitzhugh [the former APD Chief who retired two years ago],” Williams stressed. “This department has come a long way. Jimmy has done such a great job and so has the town government to make everything better.”

He praised Asbell not only as an outstanding lawman and leader, but as a successful businessman as the owner of Precision Lube.

“To help his officers put food on their tables, Jimmy hired a lot of his officers to work at Precision Lube on their days off from the PD,” Williams noted. “I thank you, my friend, for all you’ve done for this town and I congratulate you on your retirement.”

Farmer said he aspired to follow the examples set by his mentor.

“Never in my 16 years as an officer can I recall a time when someone has said that Chief Asbell treated them unfairly,” Farmer noted. “Nor have I heard his name mentioned in a negative way.”

Farmer shared that he recently attended a training session that was built on four words: leadership, relationship, partnership, and synergy. The definitions of each word fits Asbell’s career, Farmer observed.

“Chief Asbell gives purpose, direction and motivation. He stresses inclusion and puts value on the thoughts of others,” Farmer said. “The Chief always asks his officers and staff of how things are going in their lives and is sincere when doing that. He has a clear expectation of those working for the APD and always asks what we expect of him. He has built partnerships through mutual respect and open communication. He also offers to help, whether that’s covering a shift or even working the front desk. He had the respect of his staff. From a synergy standpoint, our office is vision and mission focused and has enhanced production and capability.

“Thank-you, Chief, for being such a great leader, mentor, and friend,” Farmer concluded.

Others making remarks and sharing congratulations on Asbell’s retirement included Bertie Sheriff Tyrone Ruffin, Rev. Roger Kiker, pastor of Center Grove Baptist Church, Ethan Asbell (Chief Asbell’s son), and APD Detective Stephen White.

Presentations were made by Ahoskie Mayor Weyling White, Iris Williams – who honored Asbell, on behalf of Governor Roy Cooper, with the North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine – and special plaques from the Ahoskie Police Patrol Division, Criminal Investigation Division, and Police Records Division.

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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