Two familiar names will be on the ballot for Franklin County sheriff.
Incumbent Bill Overton is seeking a third term as sheriff. Riley Hodges, a detective with the Roanoke Police Department, is also making a bid for the position. Overton is running as an independent, and Hodges as a Republican.
The two last faced off in 2015, when Overton garnered 52% of the vote to win a second term.
Overton, 58, said he’s worked over the last eight years to change the culture of the sheriff’s office and promote professionalism. But there’s more he’d like to accomplish.
“I’m energized,” Overton said. “I want the very best for Franklin County and I think that I still have a lot to offer the citizens as far as being the leader of the law enforcement realm.”
Hodges, 43, said he wants to serve the county he calls home and to lead the department he worked for from 1998 to 2015.
“It’s about the people of the county, the investment that I have here with my kids growing up and the friends and family that I’ve developed here around the county,” he said. “It’s about them, it’s not an individual thing.”
Earning accreditation, an issue Overton focused on during his first term, is one of his proudest accomplishments, along with establishing an emergency medical dispatch system and raising starting pay. Overton also said he’s thankful to have embraced the opioid overdose antidote Narcan, which deputies began carrying in 2016.
If he wins a third term, Overton has set the following goals: continuing to address compression issues with salaries to ensure employees are compensated fairly for their years of service, expanding forensic technology and working with the commonwealth’s attorney and judges to start a drug court for adults.
One of Hodges’ top priorities is improving retention at the sheriff’s office. One way he plans to do so is by working closely with deputies on the ground. Showing employees the boss is willing to do the same work as them goes a long way, Hodges believes.
Overton acknowledged that retention can be a challenge, for a number of reasons. He said policing has evolved over the years, and the responsibility and liability officers face has grown exponentially.
“It’s more intense now than it ever has been,” he said. “The scrutiny is just very intense.”
Offering competitive pay is another factor, and one of the reasons Overton sought to raise the starting salary for deputies.
If elected, Hodges said he’d like to see the sheriff’s office work more closely with other law enforcement agencies, such as police in Rocky Mount, Boones Mill and at Ferrum College. All the agencies share the same goal, Hodges said: Upholding the laws of the commonwealth.
“You need to take care of your own house but you need the teamwork on issues that come about,” he said.
Overton said he believes the sheriff’s office works well with other law enforcement agencies and, in the event of an emergency, they can assist outside their boundaries. But he has concerns about involving other agencies in routine police work because of liability and a desire to protect the office’s accreditation status.
Battling the drug crisis will require working closely with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, Hodges said. He’s glad Franklin County deputies carry Narcan, but said it’s important to yield to EMTs if they are also on the scene.
Additionally, Hodges said he’d support adding more resource officers in the schools. But if money to do that can’t be found, he proposed training retired officers or people with military experience to fill that role as employees of the school division, rather than sheriff’s office.