By Kim Barto Meeks and Debbie Hall
Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry has been re-elected to a fourth term with more than 53 percent of the vote.
Unofficial election results Tuesday evening showed Perry winning with 7,287 votes. This made for a comfortable lead of about 1,600 over challenger John W. Cassell, who garnered 5,683 votes or 41.78 percent. Candidate Jerry W. Farmer trailed with 625 votes, or 4.6 percent.
Cheered by his supporters as he watched the election results from EMI in Bassett, Perry thanked God, his family, and voters for their support.
“It’s a blessing to have this behind us, and I just look forward to serving people, and serving with y’all, for the next four years,” Perry said.
Tallies on the Virginia Department of Elections website on Tuesday night showed a total of 13,601 votes cast in the county sheriff’s race, including six write-ins. Perry took all but two of the 25 county precincts. Cassell received 152 votes in Fieldale, just two more than the incumbent; as well as 292 votes in the Gunville precinct, for a lead of 20.
Perry called his win “a good solid victory. I felt like we had the public confidence, and this solidifies that.”
He added that “as I’ve been out and about in the community, I regularly hear positive comments. People commend our office for professionalism and good work. I think this is just a continuation of that earned trust.”
Perry’s immediate priority as sheriff will be construction of a new county jail facility, a major undertaking he said will fill the next four years.
“The next two years will be full with construction starting. We’ll be starting the hiring process within the next year,” he said.
In his campaign, Farmer questioned the need for the jail and the $67 million price tag. Perry has said during the campaign that a regional jail would not save any money on housing inmates, and keeping the facility nearby allows the community and family members to be more involved in helping inmates turn their lives around.
Unlike in the current jail, “in this new facility, we can separate people. There’ll be a mental health wing, minimum and medium security sections,” Perry said. The new space will allow for more rehabilitation services to be offered. “We can have people come in and work with the inmates for counseling, life skills, and treatment for addiction.”
Perry was first appointed Sheriff in 2006 and was elected in 2007, 2011, and 2015. He campaigned on the strength of his record over the past 13 years, touting his administration’s use of technology, and statistics such as a 16 percent reduction in violent crime over the past year.
All three candidates have had long careers in law enforcement. Cassell and Farmer are veterans of the Henry County Sheriff’s Office and have worked under Perry in the past. This was Farmer’s second time running for county sheriff, the first being in 2015.
Cassell and Farmer both criticized Perry for not placing School Resource Officers (SROs) in all of the county schools and made SROs a central plank of their campaigns. Perry countered that he supports having SROs in all schools if funding was available, but questions how the positions would be funded.
A focus group, working with the county and the school board, would need to be created to work towards that goal, he added.
Henry County’s voter turnout was slightly higher than in the previous Sheriff’s race four years ago, said county Registrar Elizabeth Stone. Almost 38 percent of the county electorate participated in the 2019 election, or 13,123 people out of 34,686 registered voters. In 2015, turnout was 34.4 percent, according to Stone.
In other local elections, only one other race was contested: An at-large seat on the Henry County School Board. Cherie Joyce Whitlow won the at-large school board seat with a total of 8,392 votes, over candidate Shelira Morrison, who received 3,671.
The remaining local candidates ran unopposed.
In Henry County, the following unopposed officeholders were re-elected: Commonwealth’s Attorney M. Andrew Nester; Commissioner of the Revenue Linda N. Love; County Treasurer Scott B. Grindstaff; on the Board of Supervisors, Debra Parsons Buchanan (Horsepasture), T.J. “Tommy” Slaughter (Reed Creek), and Ryan F. Zehr (Ridgeway); on the School Board, Terri C. Flanagan (Horsepasture), Teddy Doyle Martin II (Reed Creek), and Francis E. Zehr (Ridgeway).
- Darryl Holland and Andrew L. Barker were elected to the Soil and Water Conservation Director for the Blue Ridge District.
In the City of Martinsville, Clerk of Court Ashby R. Pritchett was re-elected after running unopposed.