Henson looks to build on the department's accomplishments

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Sheriff John Henson has spent over 30 years with the Carter County Sheriff's Department.
   A career that he says has been rewarding through his service to the county's residents and the chance to do his job in his home county.
   "It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Carter County as sheriff for the last six years," said Henson. "I will try my best to keep down costs as much as possible and give them the best protection and services I can for their tax dollar."
   Whether the county's residents have been victimized by severe weather, violent crime or a fire that destroys a family's home, Henson said he has tried to go beyond his job's requirements.
   "I always try to go out and do what I can for the people," he said. "I feel like the sheriff should be a friend to the people and I have tried my very best to be their friend and their sheriff.
   "Regardless of what the call is, I am out there with the men. I have made the sheriff's position a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job."
   Since winning the sheriff's office in 1996, Henson said the department had compiled a long list of accomplishments.
   The incumbent sheriff said all of the department's road deputies have been certified through the state law enforcement training academy, the department's fleet of patrol cars has been upgraded, and additional personnel have been added in drug enforcement, court security, court process service, and litter control.
   Henson said his administration has placed D.A.R.E. law officers at all four county high schools to heighten security. The department also had established substations in Watauga, Stoney Creek and Roan Mountain to reduce costs and improve officer response time, he said.
   He also added another drug enforcement officer during his term to work with the First Judicial Drug Task Force.
   He said the department also had issued new .40-caliber Glock handguns to all deputies. A move Henson felt offered more safety and better protection for officers.
   Henson has steered the county's public safety efforts through a series of natural disasters including the devastating flood and blizzard in 1998. He also spearheaded an effort to remediate a small graveyard in Roan Mountain after a mudslide unearthed several coffins.
   "A lot of people may look at it and say it is not the sheriff's responsibility," he said, "but the way I look at it, anything to help the safety and well-being of the community is my responsibility."
   Henson also has dealt with flooding problems caused by inmates at the county jail.
   He said creative and effective management of inmates and existing jail space would prohibit the immediate need for building a new jail.
   "We try to keep around 20 state inmates around here all the time, but we run way more than 20 people at times," he said. "You get so many pre-trial people."
   Henson pointed out that building a new jail would be costly -- in both construction and new personnel.
   Henson served the department for 25 years as a road deputy and patrol commander before being elected sheriff.
   "I know the county, I know the trouble spots, how the department runs and how to run the department," said Henson, who grew up in the Poga community.
   "I've had several opportunities to go to other departments but I always stayed with Carter County because I love Carter County and I love the people in Carter County."
   Henson said he would maintain his traditional open door access policy for the public to speak with him if elected to a third term.
   "You do not need an appointment to come and talk to me. All you've got to do is walk in and if I'm not busy, I'll see you," he said. "A sheriff should be available for the people any time.
   The sheriff said he planned to improve the department's drug eradication program and establish additional substations in the Elk Mills/Poga area and west end of the county.
   "I feel like we've got a lot accomplished and we have a ways to go yet," Henson said, "but it takes time and effort, which I am willing to put in to do whatever needs to be done."