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New Forsyth sheriff takes reins

City native Bobby Kimbrough Jr. is sworn in as Sheriff of Forsyth County on Monday, Dec. 3, at the Forsyth County Hall of Justice.

New Forsyth sheriff takes reins
December 07
09:24 2018

The biggest courtroom in the Forsyth County Hall of Justice wasn’t big enough on Monday afternoon as more than 500 people filled the seats and stood along the walls, eager to see Bobby Kimbrough Jr. officially sworn in as sheriff of Forsyth County.

Kimbrough is part of a historic sweep across North Carolina. On Nov. 6, voters elected African-American candidates for sheriff in the state’s seven largest counties, including Forsyth, and smaller Pitt County.

A native of the Twin City, Kimbrough began his career in law enforcement with the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD). He then went on to serve as an arson investigator with the Winston-Salem Fire Department (WSFD). After a stint with the North Carolina Department of Probation and Parole, from 1995 until his retirement in 2016 Kimbrough served the United States Department of Justice as a special agent in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

As he addressed the hundreds of supporters in the courtroom on Monday, Dec.3, Kimbrough thanked the citizens of Forsyth County for their vote and ongoing support.

“I’ll never forget the people on this campaign trail who shaped me, that molded me. I’ll never forget none of you,” he said. “And what I’ll promise you is that I’ll give you the best of me.”

In his role of “Lord High Sheriff,” Kimbrough has vowed to put more emphasis on the opioid epidemic, other drug use, and gang violence. He said he plans to spend the first few days on the job meeting with law enforcement leaders across the county to build a working relationship.

Kimbrough says he plans to enhance what incumbent Bill Schatzman has already done. He also mentioned that there won’t be any immediate personnel changes. Kimbrough said, “As I said on the campaign trail still holds true. I won’t harm nor hurt you, nor fire; we’re a family now.

“… This is the office of the people. All I want to do is enhance what Sheriff Schatzman has done. I want to build some bridges, I want to enhance and keep going with what he has started,” he said.

Before instructing Kimbrough to place his hand on the Bible and delivering the oath, Superior Court Judge Todd Burke noted although Kimbrough is the first black sheriff in Forsyth County and the black community should be proud, all the people of Forsyth County were responsible for Kimbrough’s victory.

“Although persons have made note about our sheriff-elect being black, Forsyth County elected Bobby F. Kimbrough sheriff. Our county is black, white, Latin, and I say this to people so often: The country and state will really be what it’s supposed to be when everyone gets beyond this,”

Burke said as he pointed to his wrist to show his dark skin color.

Cedric Russell, owner of Russell Funeral Home and Kimbrough’s assistant campaign manager, said although he questioned his fraternity brother’s decision to run for sheriff in the beginning, he saw firsthand how Team Kimbrough brought people together.

“… The county responded in an arousing way. We started in East Winston and worked our way out to the perimeter. We presented the candidate with all of his qualifications, and you made the choice,” said Russell. “Team Kimbrough fussed and fought, but we agreed to disagree and in the end I knew we had an amazing team.

“… It caught on like wildfire, and every day I told him we were going to win. I used his favorite phrase, ‘We got this.’”

In the end, Kimbrough upset three-time incumbent Bill Scahtzman by more than 9,000 votes. The final tally shows Kimbrough received 71,301 votes compared with 62,903 for Schatzman.

David Plyler, chairman of the County Board of Commissioners, told Kimbrough the board and the residents of Forsyth County are behind him 100 percent. “… We will all win if we work together and support this man,” Plyler said.

Other speakers during the ceremony included Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke, Judge Denise Hartsfield, former Winston-Salem Mayor Martha Wood, Attorney Michael Grace, Bishop Sir Walter Mack, Bishop Todd Fulton, Olin Shuler, and two of Kimbrough’s seven sons, Jordan and Jamesen.

Before presenting his father to the public for first time as sheriff, Jamesen, who is a graduate of Carver High School and current student at Winston-Salem State University, said watching everything transpire over his campaign, he is proud to call Kimbrough his father and best friend.

He said, “I truly believe that everything you’re getting, you deserve. You worked hard for it. And to the community, you have elected someone that is going to do his best to improve this community and do everything that is needed.”

As part of the North Carolina election sweep, Paula Dance was voted as the first African-American sheriff in Pitt County and the first female African-American sheriff in the state of North Carolina.

“When I was born, there were no African-American members of the North Carolina state legislature, no African-American sheriffs, certainly no women minority sheriffs, and no black DAs,” said the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, the president emeritus of the North Carolina NAACP,  who spoke to abc11.com in Durham.

Voters in Wake, Durham, Cumberland, Mecklenburg, Buncombe, Forsyth, Guilford and Pitt all elected African-American sheriffs Nov. 6. In all but Wake and Mecklenburg, it was the first time doing so.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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