Voters consider three choices for sheriff

By Diandra Spicak

The three candidates for the Rockbridge County sheriff have spent the past few months knocking on doors, listening to residents and attending forums. Today, it’s up to the voters to decide who will run the county sheriff’s office for the next four years.

Vernon Reynolds, Roger Clark and Chris Blalock are running to replace retiringSheriff Bob Day, who has held the office for 20 years. Day has publicly endorsed Blalock, his chief deputy for 19 years.

Blalock began his law enforcement career in 1986, working at the county jail. He rose to investigator and eventually was appointed chief deputy.

“Beingthe second in charge . . . I just assumed that at some point I’ll step forward and run,” Blalock said. “I think the sheriff needs to be out front in the community.He needs to take a leadership role in law enforcement issues, and always be accessible to the public and available at all times.”

Blalock has attended both the Virginia Forensic Science Academy and the F.B.I. National Academy in Quantico. If elected, he said he wantsto bridge the “disconnect”between the citizens and the deputies.

“I hope to get the deputies out in the community more, maybe get them out of the cars more, have them involved in community activities and make people feel more comfortable in being able to approach them,” he said.

Roger Clark, a Rockbridge County native, has worked in law enforcement since 1986, starting as a dispatcher for the cities of Lexington and Buena Vista. He now serves as the administrative assistant for the Lexington Chief of Police.

For the past 25 years, Clark has worked with the public, including stints in parking enforcement and as animal-control officer. He said he’d like to continue serving the public but in a different capacity.

“I like to help people,” Clark said. “I’m known as a problem solver: You bring me a problem, and I’ll try to take care of it.”

Clark is pushing for a central dispatch system and an accredited sheriff’s office. He said he’d also like to see a stronger drug task force and improved sharing of information among agencies.

Reynolds,a Rockbridge native, has 36 years of law enforcement experience working in the Buena Vista Police Department, the Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Department, the Virginia Department of Corrections and at the Middle River Regional Jail. He retired from his job as lieutenant colonel at the state prison in February.

But he said he always knew he wanted to be the Rockbridge County sheriff.

“I’ve tried my entire life for this particular job,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds’ father, Sylvia, was the Rockbridge County sheriff for eight years. Vernon, the son, grew up as a fixture in the sheriff’s office, celebrating his first few birthdays there, he says.

Reynolds is calling forquicker responses to calls, more attentionon the elderly and a consolidation of emergency services.

Reynolds is running as a Republican. Both Clark and Blalock are running as Independents. But party affiliation is not listed on the ballot.

“It’s not a party issue,” Clark said. “It’s who’s got the best platform and who’s going to do the most.”