New sheriff has big shoes to fill
As disappointing as it may have been to see the way former sheriff Frank Homer disappeared from office, that's not the way he should be remembered.
By any stretch of the imagination, Homer was a class act. He was involved in the community as a human being, not necessarily as our sheriff. That helped smooth the sometimes-strained relations citizens have with law enforcement.
His calm demeanor was reassuring. He never angered, never lost his cool. He was even respectful of criminals who may not have deserved that treatment. He never spoke ill of anyone, including his enemies.
He always gave time to those who demanded it, or just requested it. In doing so, he educated us about the latest scams, the road conditions, the crime trends and what to watch out for.
He did this without scaring the living daylights out of us. We knew his department had our backs.
He was good with the media, and as self-serving as it sounds, that accessibility was a valuable asset to the community because we could communicate what his staff was doing.
He never held a grudge even though sometimes the news wasn't flattering. He recognized it went with the territory. He still returned our calls.
He sucked up an impossibly tight budget and never complained, although he occasionally wished for more. He brought expenditures and overtime within his budget two years in a row.
He, too, agonized over the dwindling jail population, just as taxpayers did. But that news also came with the good news that was obscured by the bad - crime was down. He can take partial credit for that.
The internal workings of law enforcement departments are largely unknown to the public. Personnel issues are just that and not something the public gets sidetracked about.
The new sheriff has big shoes to fill. Homer set the bar high for this administration.
Cory Aukes will have to balance his desire to be a working sheriff with the needs of the public. And sometimes the public can be unforgiving.
Two days in office, a rather cranky gentleman called the newspaper to complain about the new sheriff.
He'd seen several law enforcement cars parked outside a Nevis diner Wednesday noon when other officers were scrambling to cover a series of accidents up and down the slippery highway. Why weren't they helping, the man wondered?
Although he was mistaken and the officers had lunch after the accidents had been attended to, Aukes will need to get used to that kind of scrutiny. Being a homegrown son may make it worse for him. Or it could help him.
Frank Homer made a positive impact on the community and worked hard to cultivate good will with his staff.
He never passed up an opportunity to praise them in public, or reward them in private by giving them job opportunities. He promoted many deputies who eventually campaigned for Aukes.
He tried to hide his hurt feelings.
We wish both men well and hope in a year's time, all will be well internally. We'll be watching and listening.