Sheriff Henson seeks re-election

From Staff Reports

   Carter County Sheriff John Henson is announcing his candidacy for re-election in the Aug. 1 General Election.
   Sheriff Henson was elected to office in 1996 to fill the unexpired term of the late Sheriff Paul Peters who died in a car wreck while on vacation. Sheriff Henson was re-elected in 1998 and is now seeking a second four-year term.
   "It is a true honor and a privilege to work for the people of Carter County. I have enjoyed being your sheriff and would like to continue serving residents of Carter County the next four years. I have tried to be available at all times when people needed my help or just to talk to me," Sheriff Henson said.
   There were 52 deputies when Sheriff Henson took office. Today, there are 60 deputies and 20 volunteer reserve deputies who provide back-up support.
   Recently, Sheriff Henson obtained a $12,000 federal grant to purchase equipment and provide training for reserve deputies. "Reserves are an essential part of the work force," Sheriff Henson said.
   All total, deputies drive an average of 60,000 miles a year, patrolling 933 square miles of mostly rugged terrain in Carter County.
   Since taking office, Sheriff Henson said the number of arrests and the jail workload has more than doubled, going from 75 to 80 inmates per day to 150 inmates per day on the average.
   However, major crime (armed robberies and murder) is down; drugs and alcohol crimes have increased, he said.
   Sheriff Henson said he had made several changes to better serve the public. Among them:
   * Opening and staffing, 24/7, a substation at Watauga City Hall;
   * Opening substations soon in Stoney Creek and Roan Mountain;
   * Placing a deputy in each county high school to serve as a resource officer and reduce drug trafficking;
   * Adding a second deputy and truck for inmates to pick up roadside litter;
   * Establishing an Animal Control Officer, the first for Carter County; and,
   * Providing video cameras in all patrol cars "for the protection of the officer and the person arrested. It's like having the judge and the jury in the front seat. It's the best tool law enforcement has had in a long time," the sheriff said.
   For the near future, Henson said he is developing a plan to relieve overcrowding at the county jail.
   "I plan to add 124 beds to the 112 beds there now with funds received from housing state prisoners. The only cost to the county will be for additional jailers. Within five to six years, the cost of the jail expansion will pay for itself," Sheriff Henson said.
   Today, 25 to 30 state prisoners are housed at the county jail at any one time, he added.
   "I have done all this while staying within my allotted budget. I have even turned surplus funds back to Carter County government. My main concern has been to give the people the best service possible and to make Carter County a safer and better place to live," he said.
   Sheriff Henson and his wife, Kathy, residents of Dividing Ridge, Hampton, have six children and five grandchildren. Sheriff Henson is a member of Piney Grove Christian Church in Poga.