Wayne Davis, who took the oath of office Monday in preparation for becoming the next sheriff of Henry County, beginning at midnight Saturday, July 1, said he “will begin every day serving this community from bended knee.”
His term commences as the term of long-time Sheriff Lane Perry ends at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, June 30. Perry, who retired after serving as sheriff for nearly 17 of his 30 years in law enforcement, was also honored. (See related story)
After asking Perry to stand, Henry County Sheriff’s Lt. Col. Eric Hairston said, “Thank you, sheriff, for your dedicated service to the citizens of our beloved community. You have served Henry County with ethics, integrity, valor, and professionalism for more than 30 years. You have successfully led this honorable office of sheriff for nearly 17 years. Under your administration, this office has made great strides in staying current” with the trends of “modern-day law enforcement while providing a good quality of service to our citizens.”
Hairston noted that Perry has been “more than fair to your employees as you have weighed what is fair to the office and the citizens. We thank you … for not only being a good sheriff but also for being a wonderful friend to many of us. God bless you and may heaven continue to smile down on you and your family in retirement.”
Perry said many don’t understand the dangers that confront law enforcement officers.
“We have to stay united together and work together. It has been an honor to work with you. It’s been a privilege,” he said to the officers in his command.
“I basically walked in the midst of you and enjoyed working with you, and” tried to make the “job as easy as I could. I did try to extend grace because I see the potential in people and officers. I see potential growth (and know) that in a few years, I’m going to be walking around as a citizen and you’re going to be the ones filling these roles,” Perry said.
“Your growth is needed here. Thirty years … that’s a long time. Now is your time,” he said. “We did overcome a cloud, answered a ton of dangerous calls, dealt with dangerous circumstances inside the old jail, the new jail, the new dangers we face with drugs, mental illness, homelessness. A lot of people don’t realize you encounter dangerous situations daily,” regardless of job title or responsibility.
“In these last few years, you never missed a beat, (not) through COVID, the protests, when we started building the Adult Detention Center, then hiring for the Adult Detention Center,” Perry said. “We are everyone else’s equal that wears a badge, but this office is had a tremendous amount of responsibility in its last few years and while we met the service to the citizens the way we did and handled every matter, you also did it while carrying one of the highest solution rates in the region. “You are to be commended for your work.
“I ask you serve this administration the way you’ve done to me …. I’ve enjoyed y’all,” Perry said to a standing ovation.
Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper, Rockingham County, N.C. Sheriff Sam Page and Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith each expressed gratitude to Perry and pledged to continue working closely with Davis.
Henry County Circuit Court Clerk Jennifer Ashworth administered the oath of office to Davis.
After thanking his family, friends, and guests, Davis said “I’ve worked 23 years to build a relationship with most of the” officers in attendance. “They’re not just coworkers. I consider many of them friends.
“As we gather here today, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Wintergreen, Virginia community is burying one of its finest,” Davis said and noted that last week, Wintergreen Police Officer Mark “Chris” Wagner II “made the ultimate sacrifice when he was shot and killed in the line of duty. His funeral is going on as we speak.”
The death is “a stark reminder to us of the dangerous nature of this profession and each of your commitment to this community,” Davis said and vowed to “work diligently every day to ensure that these deputies get the highest level of training and receive the best equipment possible so that they may return home safely to their families at the end of every shift. We’re blessed to have a great group of men and women, both sworn and civilian. These deputies and support staff are part of my family, and I will treat them as such.
“As sheriff, I’ve vowed to take care of each of them, because if we don’t take care of them, how will they take care of our community and each of you,” Davis asked. “There’s a heavy burden placed upon your loved ones as they too experienced the shift work, the long hours, the fatigue, and traumas associated with the careers that you have chosen, and I would like to commend the families for their daily sacrifice, as my wife and son know” all too well.
In closing, Davis said he “will serve every member of this community, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation. My team and I, I’m proud to say, we’ll serve you with honor, integrity, courage, distinction, and sacrifice.” Serving “as your next sheriff is truly my privilege.”
As the ceremony got underway, Henry County Sheriff’s Maj. Danny Harold led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Henry County Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Nester was responsible for the opening prayer.
Hairston welcomed guests that included County Administrator Dale Wagoner, Deputy County Administrator JR Powell, Board of Supervisor members Debra Buchanan and Garrett Dillard, Ashworth, and Matt Tatum, director of public safety.
In addition to Draper, Smith, and Page, Chad Rhodes, Deputy Chief of the Martinsville Police Department along with captains Sandy Hines and Jim Minter, as well as representatives from the Virginia State Police and the North Carolina Highway Patrol, and several officials from Rockingham County, North Carolina, were among those at the ceremony.