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GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers’ path to a second term is going through a former deputy.

Rogers, a Democrat who upset venerable BJ Barnes to win the job in 2018 and then shoved aside two challengers during May’s primary, now faces Republican Phil Byrd, who once worked in the department, although not under Rogers.

Rogers earned about 58% of the vote in the primary in May, and Byrd emerged from a 6-person field of experienced candidates with 43%.

Early in-person voting in North Carolina has been underway since Oct. 20 and continues through 3 p.m. Saturday at various locations, with the General Election on Tuesday. Through Nov. 2, more than 1.5 million votes had been collected either by mail or in person.

In 2018, Rogers beat Barnes by about 10,000 votes, and during the past four years, he has faced the same issues that many of his peers have faced: higher rates for some crimes during and after the pandemic and a less trustful public in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis and volatile other officer-involved shootings.

Guilford County for 2021 recorded a 5% decrease in overall crime from 2020, with 58 fewer recorded crimes, based on figures collected by the State Bureau of Investigation. Violent crimes – murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault – were down by 12 (or 5.5%), although the murder count remained flat at 5. This does not include crimes within Guilford County that were investigated by city police departments or by the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

Byrd was a 30-year veteran as a deputy sheriff who rose through the ranks to the level of captain and who has said he thinks the department needs new leadership.

Rogers made significant changes when he took office, but he clearly thinks he has the department moving forward. Byrd, on the other hand, says that Rogers hasn’t done enough.

WGHP reached out to Byrd and Rogers with three questions. Their responses are presented here, with light editing, and they are listed in alphabetical order. Both misunderstood the question about climate change, which was designed to address their views about moving to environmentally friendly equipment, as some agencies elsewhere have done.

What are the key issues facing the Sheriff’s Office, and what can you do to address them?

Phil Byrd, candidate for Guilford County sheriff

Phil Byrd (Republican)

The three main issues plaguing the sheriff’s office are:

  1. Retention of current employees, the low morale that exists must be restored. This morale issue began when Sheriff Rogers fired over 25 employees on his way in after being elected in 2018, and he has never recovered from this costly decision he made. Leadership is the driving force costing morale. I will lead with a “participating management style,” empowering my staff to excel at their duties. Utilizing my trained command staff to use their training and skills to improve agency performance, keeping with the model of “community first” policing strategies. Transparency with the citizens on our actions and building trust by involving our communities in what is going on in their communities. Reaching a collaboration with leaders to resolve issues affecting the quality of life. I will create an environment that will attract individuals wanting a career with the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office.
  2. We currently are not prioritizing our resources in this time of shortages of our deputies. Manpower shortages in our districts are at a crisis level. We are not prioritizing where we are placing deputies to make the largest impact on the communities during these times of shortages. I will review every part of the current operations and administrative divisions for efficiency. I will, with the staff, make necessary adjustments to create the most peak performance for the citizens of Guilford County. 
  3. We are not making an impact on relieving the pressure on our detention officers. No headway has been made in the nearly four years of Sheriff Rogers’ administration. There are assaults on officers, inmate deaths and mandatory overtime, with no light at the end of the tunnel for these officers. Burnout will take over, and we will lose even more officers. I will conduct policy reviews, along with reviewing state and federal standards, to make sure we are in compliance. I will be working with the county manager to work on plans to bring efforts to increase benefits for detention officers. I will also bring morale to a level that will begin to retain staff and to create an environment of due process and fair and impartial treatment to the officers. Leading by example, not fear.
Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers

Danny Rogers (D), incumbent

The main key issues facing the sheriff’s office are staffing and salaries. The salaries have been recently increased due to several pay studies that were conducted. Another key issue is retirement insurance that will benefit retirees without their having to pay extensive insurance premiums.

What does the sheriff’s office need from the Board of Commissioners to protect the public better?

BYRD: The county commissioners play a vital role in approving funding for many functions to the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office. Benefits are squarely on the shoulders of this board. I look at our commissioners as partners. We must work in collaboration to make the necessary improvements for the safety of our citizens. Constant turnover and the shortage of qualified candidates are costly. Training, uniforms, costly background investigations and administrative processing cost – only to see them leave in days, weeks or months – is not cost-effective, nor does it prove beneficial to protecting the citizens, or managing a safe jail environment.

ROGERS: At this time we have developed a communication dialogue with the county commissioners as well as the county manager’s office that have proven to be positive in nature at the point.

What immediate steps can your office take to address climate change?

BYRD: Implementing policies that are fair and consistent in promotional and lateral transfers. Involving command staff in decision-making. Providing the sheriff’s office with a professional and responsible leadership behavior to create an environment to build eagerness to serve as staff members and officers of the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office. We must retain and recruit quality officers to be able to realize the mission of the sheriff’s office.

ROGERS: Continue to have community outreach engagement.

Other sheriff’s races

Guilford County isn’t the only sheriff’s race on the ballot in the Piedmont Triad, although some will return to office after winning a primary or because they have no opposition on Nov. 8. Here’s a rundown of those races:

Alamance County: Incumbent Terry Johnson (R-Snow Camp), Kelly White (D-Burlington).

Alleghany County: Graylen Blevins (U-Sparta), Bryan Maines (D-Sparta).

Caswell County: Tony Durden (D-Pelham) is unopposed.

Davidson County: Richie Simmons (R-Thomasville) is unopposed.

Davie County:  J.D. Hartman (R-Mocksville) is unopposed.

Forsyth County: Bobby F. Kimbrough Jr. (D-Clemmons), Ernie G. Leyba (R-Winston-Salem).

Montgomery County: Pete Heron (R-Troy) is unopposed.

Randolph County: Greg Seabolt (R-Denton), Sean Walker (D-Sophia).

Rockingham County: Incumbent Sam Page (R-Eden), Tyrone Scales (D-Eden).

Stokes County:  Joey Lemons (R-Walnut Cove) is unopposed.

Surry County:  Steve Hiatt (R-Mount Airy) is unopposed.

Wilkes County: Chris Shew (R-Wilkesboro) is unopposed.

Yadkin County: Nick Smitherman (R-East Bend) is unopposed.