LUMBERTON — The Internal Affairs investigator for the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office has become the first candidate to officially enter the race to become the county’s next sheriff.
Although incumbent Ken Sealey has not yet announced if he would seek re-election in 2018, the decision by Randy Graham to run suggests that Sealey will not.
“I want to get my name out there and let people know I am a candidate for sheriff,” Graham said Tuesday. “I will be resigning from my job at the Sheriff’s Office in April so there will be no appearance that I am campaigning on county time.”
Graham said a lot of people, including Sealey, other Sheriff’s Office employees, and members of the community have encouraged him to run for the office. Graham also credits his father with instilling in him a desire to serve the community.
“My father, W. Paul Graham, was a Robeson County manager for 22 years,” he said. “He instilled a sense of service to community in me. I feel I still have something to give back to the community.”
Graham, who has more than 30 years of experience working in the law enforcement and the judicial system, has served as Internal Affairs investigator for the past seven years, a job he said enabled him “to get a good grasp” on what it takes to run the Sheriff’s Office.
Before joining the Sheriff’s Office, Graham worked with the state Department of Public Safety’s Juvenile Justice Division. He left as chief court counselor.
Graham contends that he has the skills and experience in law enforcement that will make him a good sheriff.
“I have run a department before, have leadership ability and the ability to manage and motivate people,” he said. “I was also involved with budgets in my previous job.”
Graham has served on numerous state boards. Among his awards are the Outstanding Service Award, presented by his peers in Juvenile Justice, and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honor North Carolina bestows.
Graham has been an adjunct professor in the Criminal Justice Department at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He also has taught and coaches in the Public Schools of Robeson County.
Graham graduated from Orrum High School, and received bachelor and master degrees from UNCP.
A member of East Lumberton Baptist Church, Graham has served as chairman of the deacon board, been a Sunday School teacher, and served on several church committees. He currently serves on the Robeson County Teen Court Advisory Board and previously served on the Lumberton Recreation Commission and the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.
He and his wife, Ann, live in Lumberton. He has one son, Randall, who is married and lives in Holly Springs.
The race for sheriff in 2018 could be crowded. In addition to Graham, Burnis Wilkins, a Lumberton city councilman and career law enforcement officer; Lennis Watts, a former highway patrolman and former county commissioner and a former sheriff’s candidate; and Ronnie Patterson, chief of police in Red Springs, have all hinted they would run for sheriff.
Sealey was appointed sheriff in 2004 and ran successfully for the office in 2006, 2010 and 2014.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.