By Brandon Martin
Incumbent Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper will seek reelection in November 2021 – a decision he reached in part after being asked by fellow officers.
“I feel good. I love my job and I love my community,” Draper said. “I don’t have any children or grandchildren, so what else am I going to do with all that off time,” he added with a hearty laugh. “I just want to keep helping however I can.”
Draper credits his team and their recent successes at the jail for pushing him towards his decision.
“Everything we do is a team effort,” he said. “I’m really proud of the people I have. The command staff and deputies are second to none.”
Draper was born in Martinsville in 1953 and started his career at the Sheriff’s office in 1973, holding positions as a correctional officer, court bailiff and as a civil process server.
In 1980, Draper said that he entered the private security sector, eventually landing a job with the Sara Lee Corporation after the purchase of the Pannill Knitting Company.
“They sent me back to school and I got so much management experience,” he added.
When the company decided to move a number of jobs to Mexico, Draper said that he was offered a position with the company in Texas, but “I’ve lived here my whole life and I wanted to stay here and be of service to the community.”
During his time with the company, Draper also was elected to Martinsville City Council in 1991.
“While on council, I found out that the previous sheriff would not be seeking reelection and Sara Lee was closing down, so it wasn’t that hard of a decision, especially with all the citizens and the community supporting me,” Draper said.
Still with support of his peers, Draper said “as long as the public wants me to serve, I’ll continue to serve.”
If he wins reelection, Draper noted he will be 72 by the end of his next term.
“Four more years would be great to help finish some of the things that we have in the pipeline and at the end of the day, you’re only as young as you feel and right now I still feel pretty young,” he said.
A couple of things that Draper said he would like to see out is the continual improvement of technology for the sheriff’s office and to help with any potential transition resulting from the city’s bid to revert to a town.
“I want to continue to work on our software system,” Draper said. With multiple systems, Draper said “right now we have to do a lot of double entry of data which wastes time, so I’d like to continue work to get it down to a singular system.”
Draper said he would also like to see the sheriff’s office go paperless for record keeping of “everyone that goes in and out of the jail.”
He said he maintains a good relationship with city management, and he wants to continue that work. “It’s not like that across the state and we are very lucky to have a city council that works with us and values our work.”
For Draper, he said it all comes down to service.
He joined the Martinsville Volunteer Fire Company in 1971 and continued to be active with them until the early 1980s. In addition, he joined the Martinsville-Henry County Rescue Squad in 1979 and served the community as an EMS provider for approximately 10 years. He served as president of the Martinsville Volunteer Fire Company and captain of the Martinsville-Henry County Rescue Squad. Draper has also served as Director of Security and Event Coordinator for Martinsville Speedway since 1971.
“I’ve met a lot of people over my time and showed that I cared about them. They’ve shown that same love in return. I just love working with people and I want to do it as long as I can,” Draper said. “I take a good deal of pride when I’m out serving the community and people stop me on the streets to tell me they want me to run for reelection. I’m truly blessed.”
He said he’s even passed this passion for service down to his deputies.
“I always tell them that everything we have, the city bought,” he added. “The way we give back to the community is to get out there and help however they need us.”
Draper’s involvement hasn’t stopped with just community service either. He’s also involved with the state’s broader mission of law enforcement.
Among many others, he said he is most proud of his time serving as President of Virginia’s Sheriff Association, which he said “no other local sheriff has held that position,” and as the Treasurer for the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission. According to Draper, the commission reviews audits from across the state to ensure departments meet standards for accreditation.
Regionally and locally, Draper said he takes a lot of pride serving as a local contact for motorcades during presidential visits.
“If they come anywhere close by, we always assist,” Draper said. “There’s nothing like being up there next to Air Force I, the president, the vice-president–it’s been a really rewarding experience.”
All of his dedication seems to pay off.
Draper said that sheriffs in Virginia have a quasi-rating system annotated by numbers on their squad car license plates.
“There are 123 sheriffs. I started out as 121 and now I’m number three,” Draper said. “My 27-years sure have flown by and I’ve gotten to know a bunch of the other sheriffs really well. I contacted the two guys ahead of me and they’ve told me that they aren’t running again, so if I win reelection, then I’ll be the senior sheriff in the state of Virginia.”
The next election for Sheriff in Martinsville isn’t until next year. As of now, Draper is running unopposed.
“I’m at a point in my life where I could comfortably retire, but as of right now, I’m just concentrating on getting up every day, putting my best foot forward and working to serve this great community that I’m proud to call home,” he said.