Sheriff Lane Carter Will Retire May 1
Moore County will have a new sheriff on May Day. Sheriff Lane Carter will retire effective May 1, his office confirmed today. Carter was out of the office and could not be reached, but gave his notice in a letter to Nick Picerno, chairman of the Moore County Board of Commissioners.
“After much thought and prayer, I have decided to retire effective May 1st, 2013,” the sheriff said. “Moore County has been very good to me over the past 34 years and it has been my pleasure to serve the citizens of Moore County. While I look forward to enjoying my retirement, I will miss working with the county.
“I sincerely appreciate the support that you and the other commissioners have provided to the Sheriff's Office during my tenure as sheriff. If I can be of any assistance during this transition, please let me know.”
Carter asked Picerno to accept the letter as his resignation from the office of Sheriff of Moore County effective May 1, 2013.
“I started Oct. 16, 1978, under Sheriff C.T. Wimberley,” Carter said Thursday afternoon, reflecting on his years in office. “Whipple came in after Wimberley, and then Wise was sheriff for 16 years, and then Johnson. There have been a lot of changes in this profession in 34 years. There isn't any doubt they have been improvements. There are systems available to us today that weren’t around in the 1970s and even in the 90s.”
When Frank Johnson chose not to seek reelection, Carter – his chief deputy – filed. Voters elected him for the first time in 2002 and reelected him in 2006 and again in 2010. He doesn't have any particular plans for retirement.
“Fish a little bit, tend my grandbabies, do just exactly what I want to do every day,” Carter said, chuckling. “I have got a sawmill, and I will do a lot of that I’m sure. I put in enough time five or six years ago; I'm just retiring now – it is just time to go. Sheriffs don’t make the office; people in the office make the sheriff’s office. I have a lot of great people who do a great job, and I am sure that will continue.”
At its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night the Moore County Republican Party's executive committee recommended that county commissioners appoint Chief Deputy Neil Godfrey to succeed Carter in office. In some North Carolina counties the county coroner acts as sheriff in the event of a sudden vacancy in the office until the county board appoints a successor. Moore County did away with the office of coroner some years ago, so here the outgoing sheriff's political party nominates someone for consideration for appointment to the office.
Political party recommendations are usually binding on county commissioners.
“If the sheriff were elected as a nominee of a political party, the board of commissioners shall consult the county executive committee of that political party before filling the vacancy, and shall elect the person recommended by the county executive committee of that party, if the party makes a recommendation within 30 days of the occurrence of the vacancy,” state law (statute 162-5-1) says.
Carter will remain in office until May, so the Republican Party did not actually make its recommendation “within 30 days” of the vacancy. That would seem to leave county commissioners a free choice, though they – all Republicans themselves – are expected to follow the executive committee’s choice. They will likely elect Godfrey to fill the remainder of Carter’s unexpired term at their next regular meeting. The next public election for sheriff takes place in 2014.
Godfrey, a Republican Party precinct chair, is well known to all the committee members and was their choice without objection, county party chairman Robert Levy said.
Levy said he doesn’t believe county commissioners are bound to accept their recommendations but believes they will.
“I would be very, very surprised if the commissioners wouldn’t follow that recommendation,” Levy said. “Neil Godfrey has been the chief administrator of the department for awhile – he is a hands-on person. While Sheriff Carter was doing various things he does as sheriff, Neil was taking care of many every day matters with the sheriff’s department and also interfacing with the commission. Politically, we just wanted to make sure there is a good, competent sheriff and would remain a Republican. We trust Neil to do everything necessary and do it properly. There is only so far that politics should go into a sheriff’s office. It should never be a major portion.”
Godfrey, reached in his office Wednesday afternoon for a brief interview, was humbled by the party’s choosing him to succeed Carter.
“It is a great honor – a great honor for the executive committee to think so highly of me,” Godfrey said Wednesday afternoon. “I will make every effort to perform at that level. I don’t see anything will be any different. We are going to keep this one of the best sheriff’s offices in North Carolina. This is a very professional department, and that’s the way it will continue to operate.”
Godfrey was formerly with the State Bureau of Investigation. After his retirement from that agency, Carter tapped him as his chief deputy. That had been his own last post under Sheriff Johnson before winning election to office.
About Lane Carter
“This story is really about Lane,” Godfrey said, praising the sheriff's accomplishments. “He started out as a deputy back in 1971,” he said. “He rose through the ranks. He served in just about every capacity here at the sheriff’s office. He was road deputy, investigator, worked drug investigations, was supervisor of investigations. He was captain of investigations right before he became chief deputy. He had quite a bit of experience and training. Lane was a very good leader and always provided support and resources to his people to enable them to do the best job that they could do.”
The new Rick Rhyne Public Safety Center will be a major legacy of Carter’s tenure as sheriff, Godfrey said. So many aspects affecting safety for the people of Moore County will be improved when it opens.
“Look at the 911 center – operating in a basement!” he said. “The same thing with our investigators – now they will have office space to properly access and store evidence, to interview victims and witnesses and suspects. The building is designed to be very functional, has some of the latest technology. We hope to open around the first of April.”
Carter will have barely a month in his new office before he retires from law enforcement and his resignation as sheriff takes effect.
“He accomplished a lot while sheriff,” Godfrey said, mentioning not only the new center but Carter’s success in helping Moore County get its own prosecutorial district and district attorney. He expects to wait until he is sheriff before naming a new chief deputy.
“I think so,” he said. “It would be appropriate to do.”
See Friday's edition of The Pilot for the full story.
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