PE Sheriff Embraces New Title
PRINCE EDWARD – Last November, county voters went to the polls and, for the first time in twelve years, selected a new sheriff.
Captain Wesley Reed has undergone a title change.
Recently, The Herald sat down with the new sheriff who noted things haven't changed a lot since January 1.
Sheriff Reed says that he plans on being “a hands-on visible sheriff.” He cites that he's always been a work-a-holic “I don't see no reason for me to change at this point in time,” he said.
When we sat down for our interview, he figured he'd had maybe three days off completely away from the office (including Saturday and Sunday) since winning the November election.
“I think I need to do this until after I get everything really smoothed out to the way I want it and it's about there. Then I'm (going to) start trying to live a normal life…” Reed laughs.
Even then, he adds, he's still going to be “24/7.” Sheriff is “a job that you…just gotta stay on top of. And that's what the citizens hired me to do-to be visible and be there for 'em and that's what I'm trying to do.”
When a new sheriff comes in, he concedes, there's always new ideas. So far, Reed says, employees are on board, morale is up and are working along with the changes they have and are making.
There had, in fact, been little turnover within the department since the election.
Among the changes:
*Sheriff Reed has changed “the rank structure around quite a bit,” so that there is someone above the rank of deputy available on shifts-so there will be very few where there isn't at least a sergeant or a lieutenant, or captain.
*As of March 1, the staff was complete. The new chief deputy is Major David Eppes (formerly a lieutenant with the department), Richard Hurak (also a former lieutenant with the department) is the Department's Captain. Sonya Walker is the Lieutenant in charge of administration, Lt. David Wilmoth is in charge of investigations, Investigator Robert Goldman is in charge of narcotics investigations; and Lt. James Farley, 1st Sgt. Joseph Sprague, Sgt. Richard Raybold and Sgt. Robert Franklin are over patrol.
Each of the supervisors, Sheriff Reed notes, has a task-a project.
The administrators are working well together and well with the rest of the employees, he says.
“We make sure that they treat everybody right and look out for the welfare and the safety of the citizens, that's what we're about,” Reed said.
While he concedes you're not going to please everybody, he says he intends to try to please a large percent.
*Work continues on working toward department accreditation. While not mandated by the state, Sheriff Reed noted it's a process of making the department more accountable and more professional.
“I will make sure that that happens with Prince Edward County sheriff's office. Sheriff Harris started it and…we had some setbacks on it, but right now I think we're probably 75 percent already complete,” he said.
He noted that he's not putting it on the back burner and are “working on this thing regularly every day now.”
Sheriff Reed also wants to implement the Neighborhood Watch program in all areas of the county. So far, it's been started in three or four areas, he noted, but adding that there's a lot of other areas “that need to get it. And I want to do it in all voting precincts.”
Sheriff Reed noted that Sgt. Robert Franklin will be working on the Neighborhood Watch effort.
*Reed also hired what is believed to be the County's first female road deputy. (See related story page one.)
Sheriff Reed noted that there are several things that he promised when he was running for the office and, so far, he's on board with most of them.
Specifically, he cited call backs for the elderly.
“I'm in the process of getting letters drawn up, sent out to all the churches, civic organizations making them aware of this program that I'm installing about the safety checks of our elderly senior citizens,” Sheriff Reed detailed at the time of the interview. “…All they need to do is to just call the sheriff's office and…give their name and number and say, 'Look, I want you to check on me-give me a call to check on me'-and we'll do it…”
Dispatch, he adds, has “plenty of time,” and they can make a call. He noted that they want to make it as safe as possible for them and for them to feel secure.
And, while they do routine patrols throughout the county, they are also doing checks with merchants every shift. They also do residential checks for those going on vacation. Folks are calling in asking them to check on their residence. He noted that in all three shifts, at some point in time, someone will check those residences.
Sheriff Reed noted that the board of supervisors is working really well with him on financial issues, salaries, vehicles-different things he needs. (Supervisors, prior to the end of the previous budget year, approved the purchase of additional vehicles for the department and chipped in with additional funds for the salary of his chief deputy.)
“…I'm truly grateful for them-to have a board like that,” Sheriff Reed said.
Funding from the County enabled the purchase of five vehicles.
While the office is pretty much up on technology, Reed notes he is looking to upgrade the dispatch center. He's hopeful of federal grant funding for communications. They need a tracking system, he cites, where dispatchers can look at the screen and tell officers where they need to go.
Hopefully-with available grants-the sheriff would like to have in-car computers in the next four years.
The majority of the patrol vehicles already have cameras.
Sheriff Reed, who served as retired Sheriff Travis Harris' chief deputy for the previous 12 years, describes the former sheriff as his “right hand man” and his “mentor.” He noted that they talk on a regular basis just talking in general, not a lot of call as asking what he would do in a particular situation.
“It's nothing like that you know,” Sheriff Reed said, “we just talk in general and it's good to know that…we still have our open line…of communication.”
Having served as sheriff for 12 years, Sheriff Reed says of Harris, he learned a lot. He notes that “what really built me” was having to work under two good sheriffs, adding to the list Gene Southall.
Sheriff Reed notes that Southall was “fantastic to work for” and that “he believed in treating people the way we wanted to be treated.” Sheriff Harris, he would add, came along and stepped in those same shoes.
“…I was molded there, too,” Sheriff Reed said. “And that's pretty much the way I like to be.”
And he wants his deputies to treat people the way they want to be treated.
“We have to enforce the laws-no doubt about that,” Sheriff Reed said. “But we can still treat people with manners and respect.”
If there's any question, he noted, he can call either one at any given time.
“…When I was chief deputy, I thought I knew it all, but I found out that once I became sheriff and once I went through the schooling for sheriffs to get certified, it is a different ballgame,” Sheriff Reed said.
It's a big responsibility, he says, but noted he was in training all these years and not once had fear of being sheriff or fear of being in control. He says he's tried to educate himself so that if there is a disaster he knows exactly which buttons to press and when to press it. He's comfortable, Reed says, enough to run Prince Edward County sheriff's office “and whatever problems that come with it, I'm ready to handle it.”
For those who don't know him that take the time to get to know him, he says, he thinks they'll find he is firm but fair.
Reed is one of 12 children (born in the middle), where there was both love and discipline. Born and raised in the Meherrin area, he's a 1974 graduate of Prince Edward County High School.
He lives less than a quarter of a mile from where he grew up. It was tough he reflected. They didn't have the best clothes or the best anything, he says, adding that “we had each other. And I guess, through that, it taught us how to work and how to survive.”
All of his sisters and brothers are still living and he notes are “doing fairly well…Nobody's rich, but…we're still keeping the lights on.”
His mom was a housekeeper, his dad at times worked in a sawmill, worked construction, and latter years worked and retired as a cook at Piedmont Geriatric Hospital.
They raised a garden and hogs when he was growing up. Reed still does both.
Though Reed doesn't have a college degree, he says he's probably accumulated enough credits applying himself in the law enforcement field to have a master's degree. (He graduated from the police academy in 1987.)
Common sense and the education he has received, he says, “has done very well for me,” adding that, it goes to show you that “if you apply yourself, you can do well.”
As a supervisor, he also notes, that you don't have to have a college degree to do a good job.
Sheriff Reed was working as a construction supervisor for a Richmond company when former County supervisor James Moore approached him about working for the sheriff's office.
Moore, he recounted, noted that they needed a deputy over in the Meherrin area and assessed that he would do a good job.
It was the last thing on his mind, Reed laughed. But Moore stayed with it, coming back later and asked if he (Reed) had thought about it. This time, Reed thought, maybe he would try it.
“Next thing I know, he was introducing me to (Sheriff) Gene Southall. From that point on, Gene and I-we pretty much hit it off. He talked to me awhile and he swore me in and I began working part-time for him.”
When his job in Richmond ended (the company folded and he was asked to relocate to New York), he stopped by to talk to the sheriff, though not looking for work). He noted there was a dispatch position open.
Encouraged to take the job (though it was less than what he made as a construction supervisor), Reed came to the dispatch center in 1985.
“…From that point on, I just applied myself from dispatcher to the field,” Reed said.
He was later promoted to investigator, where he worked until Harris was elected sheriff and Reed was appointed as his chief deputy.
“Then the time came when I was kind of caught almost between a rock and a hard spot because I needed 30 years of service for health insurance reasons and Sheriff Harris was leaving (to retire) and I only had a little over 27…,” Reed recounted. “But I still would be having to do something else to make the difference up. So that's when I made my mind up…either way you go, win, lose or draw, you'll be alright and I…decided I was gonna run for sheriff and I had a lot of people that just kept encouraging me to run and…I made my mind up and I…went for it. And, through God's grace and mercy He…seen favor for me.”
On the wall of his new office hangs a single dollar bill, a birthday present that came with a card in celebration of his first birthday as sheriff (January 11). Reed decided to frame it.
A man of faith, he has also kept a prayer bear, one of a collection of stuffed bears given to the department for officers to have on hand for children.
Ask about a good day, Reed offers there are many, but then focuses on a case where a 74-year old had been raped. Working the case with another investigator, he reflected, they solved it with a cigarette butt of DNA. It took two years of investigation.
“And just to see the joy on this individual's face to let her know that I had this man in custody, I mean it was just so exciting just to see her…the relief that she had.”
That one particular day, he notes just sticks out all the time.
He would add that it's all about helping people.
Asked how long he sees himself staying, Reed noted: “It all depends on the citizens of Prince Edward County, how long they want me to be their sheriff. I don't want to give a number, but it all depends on the citizens of Prince Edward County. They elected me and if they want me again, they will re-elect me and if they don't they'll let me know…and I'll still be grateful. I give God all the glory, all the honor. I will.”