Four men are battling it out to be Craven County’s next sheriff.
Four men are battling it out to be Craven County’s next sheriff.
Two Democrats — incumbent Sheriff Jerry Monette and challenger Eric Smith — and two Republicans — Fred “Chip” Hughes and Ernest Thomas — will face off in the Tuesday primary, with the winners advancing to the November general election.
Here is a brief breakdown of the Democratic and Republican candidates, in alphabetical order:
Five-term Sheriff Jerry Monette is running under the banner of “A Candidate Who Cares.”
Monette is a Democrat, but traditionally has had support and gotten good feedback from some of the county’s most conservative residents in winning re-election.
Monette says he will continue on the current path, adding the current office is “just as tight a sheriff’s office has ever been. I feel like a change in leadership would disrupt the organization and cause some good employees to be misplaced.”
Monette’s professional achievements include 29 years of law enforcement service, including his 20 years as Craven County sheriff. He has served as a Havelock public safety officer, criminal division patrol deputy, DARE officer, criminal division zone deputy, evidence specialist and lab technician, and major case criminal investigator.
The sheriff is pleased with his department’s record.
“We’re blessed to live in a county with a relatively low crime rate,” Monette said. “And, when we’ve had issues of violent crime, we’ve jumped on it and cleared the cases by arrest.”
Monette graduated from New Bern High School and earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice–protective services from Craven Community College. He is a bachelor’s degree candidate in criminal justice at Mount Olive College.
Monette says he also has numerous certificates and relevant schooling from his long law enforcement career. Monette further stated he is very active in the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association, which conducts annual training.
Monette is active in his church and in Boy Scouts. He has lived in Craven County his entire life. He has been married for 33 years and has two children — son Jeremy, a deputy with the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office, and daughter Jenna, a senior at New Bern High School.
Democratic challenger Eric Smith says he has “come out swinging with the truth” in his second run for sheriff.
Smith promises a campaign based on truth, his background and credentials. He said he plans to “hit the ground running,” if elected.
“My qualifications are there and people look at those,” Smith said. “People look at the candidates and say ‘I like him,’ but that’s not enough. The sheriff’s office needs a professional law enforcement officer.”
Smith is a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran. He eventually reached the rank of captain, serving as a logistics officer in charge of East and West Coast accounts.
Smith later served as an agent with the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, during which he was appointed a special deputy U.S. marshal. Upon his retirement from the SBI, Smith served as a police officer, sergeant and detective, and then as a deputy sheriff for Craven and Onslow counties.
Beyond his law enforcement career, Smith was employed as a safety officer and training coordinator for Corning Glass.
During his career with North Carolina law enforcement agencies, Smith earned certificates in Public and Supervisory Management, Advanced Law Enforcement, Advanced Homicide and as a Law Enforcement Instructor.
Smith is also a sworn arson expert and trained interrogator. Smith also completed the Department of Justice Drug Enforcement School.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina A&T State University and was certified in public management at N.C. State University.
Smith has been a resident of New Bern for 25 years and is married with two adult children and a 17-year-old.
FRED ‘CHIP’ HUGHES
Longtime Craven County resident Fred “Chip” Hughes is running as a Republican under the banner “Professionalism, Accountability, Transparency.”
“The citizens of Craven County deserve professional law enforcement at the county level,” he said. “That is something I will bring with transparency and accountability.”
Hughes professional experience includes more than 25 years in law enforcement at the federal, state and local level. He served more than three years in the U.S. Air Force as a military police officer and drug investigator. Following his enlistment, Hughes joined the N.C. Highway Patrol, where he served for 14 years before concurrently serving as a Trent Woods police officer and reserve deputy sheriff with the Craven County Sheriff’s Office.
About four years later, Hughes was elected as Trent Woods town commissioner, at which point he left the Trent Woods police. He served a total of four years as a town commissioner, during which time he also worked as deputy chief of police for the town of Bridgeton. He currently serves as the interim chief of Bridgeton’s police.
Hughes was recently appointed chairman of the Governor’s Task Force on Safer Schools as well as a member of the Governor’s Crime Commission. His public service also includes work with the Craven Community College Foundation board and Twin Rivers YMCA board.
Hughes now works as an executive for a public safety technology company.
“Under my direction, the Craven County Sheriff’s Office will respect the dignity and worth of all people,” Hughes said. “We will be dedicated, capable and well prepared to enforce all laws, deter criminal activity, protect and serve the citizenry and maintain order at all times.”
A 1986 graduate of New Bern High School, Hughes is married and has a son, 15, and a daughter, 14.
Competing with Hughes for the Republican nomination for sheriff is River Bend Police Officer Ernest Thomas, who says he plans to build on his previous four campaigns for sheriff.
“All I’ve done is serve,” Thomas said. “I was a defender of the nation in the Marines and Army, and in Craven County, I will protect, defend and safeguard.”
Thomas’ professional experience began in 1976 when he enlisted in the Marine Corps as an infantryman, then as a military police officer and jet engine mechanic. During Operation Desert Storm, he joined the Army Reserve, where he would serve for 21 years as a military police officer. He served as a Craven County deputy sheriff for eight years, before accepting a job as the Bayboro chief of police in Pamlico County.
Concurrently, he worked with the prison system and later as a reserve police officer in Pollocksville. He currently works at the River Bend Police Department, where he has been for the past 10 years.
Thomas says he will open up the Craven County Sheriff’s Office if elected, having an “open door policy” that will allow citizens to come in and voice their concerns. Drug enforcement and increased diversity in the office would also be high on Thomas’ to-do list.
“I’d like to focus on drug enforcement, a lot more can be done then what is now,” he said. “It’s time for a change and so many things need to be changed. People deserve to know the truth and base their vote on that.
“I’d like to thank the people who voted for me last time,” the father of four said. “And ask for their support again.”
Cathryn Lindsay is a reporter for the Sun Journal.