FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. -- Bobby Kimbrough made history Tuesday, being elected the first African-American sheriff in the history of Forsyth County.
Wednesday, both he and current Sheriff Bill Schatzman began what both intend to be a smooth transition between the two.
After early voting, Kimbrough led Schatzman by about 14,000 votes, tallying 44,600 to Schatzman’s 30,530. Absentee by-mail ballots were also slightly in Kimbrough’s favor, with 1,362 compared to 1,348 for Schatzman.
Unofficial North Carolina Board of Elections results show Schatzman garnered more votes on election day, 30,215 to 25,339, but Kimbrough finished with 53.45 percent of the vote, compared to 46.55 percent for Schatzman. The board’s unofficial results have the final tally at 71,301 for Kimbrough and 62,093 for Schatzman.
Speaking with FOX8 Wednesday, Kimbrough said he knew that voters were aware of his experience. Kimbrough began his career as a patrol officer and certified firefighter and public safety officer for the City of Winston-Salem. He went on to become a Winston-Salem Assistant Fire Marshal, before transitioning to North Carolina Probation and Parole and eventually a special agent with the DEA between 1995 and 2016, according to his website.
However, Kimbrough was also aware that the people of Forsyth County didn’t know him “as a person.” So, he went into the community, even going as far as talking to people in restaurant parking lots.
“When you sit, and you talk with people, and they can look at you, and they can touch you, and you can shake hands with them, and they can ask you difficult questions, and they see how you respond to them, people respect that. I just think that people respected the work that we put in, I think that people saw how genuine we were and they responded,” Kimbrough said.
Following his victory, Kimbrough says Schatzman called him to offer his support. The two have maintained a friendly relationship throughout the campaign and election, Kimbrough said.
“We talked, we had a personal conversation. He told me that he was there for me if I needed him, he told me that whenever I was ready to come by and sit down and talk with him, he would give me his full support and let me start the transition when we were ready,” he said. “I applaud him and I appreciate him for that. I didn’t expect anything less from him.”
Kimbrough said his decision to run wasn’t about himself or Schatzman, instead, it was about the people. He added that he understands the importance of the jobs held by current sheriff's office staff.
“People feed their families by jobs. It is not my intention to go in and clean house, it is not my intention to go in and clean house. I’ve heard people say that they don’t want to work for me and that’s fine if that’s the choice they make, but my intention, or our intention, is not to go in there and clean house. By no means,” he said.
In addition to speaking with Schatzman, Kimbrough says he talked with Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson following the election. On Wednesday, he said, he stopped by the Kernersville Police Department on his way to Greensboro.
“We can do a lot of things together when we leverage our resources. So, one of the things that we talk about focusing on is trying to create a city-county vice narcotics unit. Gang unit. We talk about, how can we create programs, crime prevention programs,” he said.
Kimbrough says that he intends to attack the opioid epidemic, to which he has a personal connection. His wife of 15 years, Clementine Kimbrough, died of an opioid overdose.
He added that he also intends to address shootings in places of worship and come up with a plan to prevent them.
Kimbrough will officially be sworn in as sheriff on Dec. 3.
A sheriffs office spokeswoman says he and Schatzman “have already started preliminary conversations regarding the numerous logistics involved. Sheriff Schatzman will do all he can to facilitate a smooth transition. Sheriff-elect Kimbrough will be joining a professional, accredited law enforcement agency and our staff members will continue to perform to their normal high standards during this transition period. Many of the details of the transition timing specifics will be up to Sheriff-elect Kimbrough.”