A Natural Choice For Sheriff's Job
N eil Godfrey's professional background could hardly be more different from that of Lane Carter, whom he will succeed as Moore County sheriff on May 1. But a better qualified person would be hard to find anywhere.
Carter practically grew up in the Moore County Sheriff's Department - or Sheriff's Office, as it is now known. He has roots deep in local soil. Godfrey, by contrast, had a stellar career as an investigator with the State Bureau of Investigation. It was only after he retired from that job that Carter hired him as chief deputy - the position that Carter himself had formerly held.
But since then, Godfrey has basically run the day-to-day operations of the department - which is what the chief deputy does. Putting him in that job meant that Carter had great trust in him, and that confidence does not appear to be misplaced. There seems little doubt that he has earned this powerful position - whose name grew out of the ancient Saxon title "shire reeve," which might translate as "keeper of the county."
Still Has to Face Voters
Because Carter chose to retire in midterm, it fell to the Moore County Board of Commissioners to formally nominate his replacement, which the board did Tuesday. It acted upon the recommendation of Bob Levy, current chairman of the Moore County Republican Party (and regular columnist in The Pilot).
This appointment is only good until the 2016 election, in which Godfrey will need to obtain the imprimatur of the voters if he wants to keep the job. But by then he will have the advantage of incumbency and might not even face serious opposition.
This is a good moment to reflect on how far Southern law enforcement has come from the bad-old-boy days depicted - no doubt unfairly, even at the time - in movies like "Smokey and the Bandit," in which Sheriff Buford T. Justice clumsily chased Burt Reynolds around.
By all accounts, the Moore County Sheriff's Office in particular has assembled a stable of excellent investigators under Carter's tenure. They include Major Ronnie Fields - who, under different circumstances, would himself have made a likely candidate for the job.
With a few exceptions here and there, such is the level of professionalism in the department that one seldom hears the kinds of outraged complaints about deputies' behavior that were once a staple of newspapers' letter columns.
Smooth Transition Assured
Does it seem archaic, in this age of more high-tech law enforcement, to have "high sheriffs" still running for election under party banners? Does it seem a little too cozy for one holder of the office to be able to step aside and work with the party leadership to give his handpicked successor a foot up?
The answer to both questions may perhaps be yes. But until the system changes - and that looks highly unlikely in this time when partisan politics seems to be growing more polarized than ever - Moore County residents can find satisfaction in the fact that the process has resulted in such a satisfactory outcome in this case.
And it's one that promises a relatively smooth and painless transition to a new regime.
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