Name: Melissa Elliott
Candidate For: Vance County Sheriff
Town of Residence: Henderson
Previous position(s) held: Gang Resource Officer; Jail Liaison; Vance County Sheriff Office 911 Dispatcher; Correctional Officer; Correctional Case Manager; Gang Intel Committee; Family Enrichment Worker
Degrees/Certifications Earned: Associate Degree in Criminal Justice – Vance-Granville Community College; Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice – St. Augustine University; Master of Public Administration – Strayer University; Post Master’s Certificate in Criminal Justice; General Instructor – Criminal Justice
What motivated you to run for Vance County Sheriff?
I am running for the Office of the Sheriff to better the community in which I live and serve by implementing innovative strategies that would increase the safety in our community, as well as bring a greater quality of life to all of our citizens.
As a young girl, I felt compassion towards the needs of others and as a young woman acknowledged there was a great call of “leadership” on my life. Now, I am a community champion who embraces the call of God to bring change in areas that seemingly are difficult.
I am grateful and deem it an honor to be considered to serve the citizens of Vance County in the capacity of Sheriff.
What distinguishes you from other candidates?
I feel distinguished in this election for Sheriff in several different ways. First and foremost, I am a woman who fears God AND I am accessible to ALL people. I have proven my loyalty and dedication over the years in this community as one who hurdles over challenges and yields positive results and solutions.
Secondly, I have the educational background that, unmatched by any other candidate, makes me extremely and uniquely qualified and knowledgeable in the areas of crime prevention, as well as other evidence-based strategies that have been implemented by other jurisdictions. My Master’s degree in Public Administration (MPA) allows me to demonstrate knowledge, skills and abilities that are pertinent to leading the Office of Sheriff.
The trust that I have garnered in the community, along with my diverse background in criminal justice (in several capacities) and my educational background (MPA, Post Master’s Certificate and Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice) have prepared me for the tasks that lie ahead.
Lastly, I have extensive knowledge on a societal issue (gangs) that has plagued many communities. My in-depth research and relationships in criminal street gangs will also illuminate strategies that will prevent many youths from becoming emerged in a life that only ends in tragedy; intervene to save lives and suppress those who have no desire to change.
What do you believe is the single most important skill to possess in order to be a successful sheriff?
The single most important skill to possess to be a successful sheriff is communication. Oral and written communication is key in the daily operation of any administration. The Sheriff needs to be able to effectively communicate with his or her staff, the public and the citizens that have elected them to serve. Communication involves executing directives, listening to the concerns of others to create and implement effective strategies for all who are involved.
If elected, would you keep the Sheriff’s department moving along its current path or change the course?
As the elected Sheriff, I would assess the effectiveness of all units and daily operations. After the assessment is complete, I would gradually implement strategies to improve the quality of service for citizens of our great county. I do not believe in recreating the wheel; however, I do believe in improvement. Training would be an essential tool as well as programs and evidence-based strategies for a more proactive approach to the challenges our community faces.
I strongly believe in prevention i.e. G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education and Training), the Dare Program, the Step Up Initiative and other programs that would address mental illness and substance abuse disorders. Community Watch is also an extremely important program that would continue its momentum with workshops and speakers who bring information to the citizens as well as listening to the concerns of the community.
What do you believe is the biggest concern facing Vance County today and what would you do as Sheriff to address that concern?
Vance County has several concerns that are interrelated and it is extremely difficult to address only one and believe that the problem is fixed. Economic growth and development, or lack thereof, which has caused an extremely high poverty rate in Vance County has developed many challenges that we face. Gun violence, substance abuse, gangs, recidivism, changing the trajectory of our children’s future, weapons reduction; the list can go on and on.
As the Sheriff of Vance County, I would hone in on prevention with our youth in the way of programs, by assigning deputies to work with students in the elementary school as well as the community through the G.R.E.A.T. program and partner with churches, nonprofits and other stakeholders to increase positive impact.
To reduce gang activity and criminal offenses I would implement a gang unit to focus on gang culture, trends and criminal activity, as well as put in place a system to classify and identify gang members in our community. I would also continue the momentum with the gun buyback program to obtain firearms.
Working previously in the Vance County Jail as well as the North Carolina Department of Public Safety has given me direct insight on the classification of offenders and the evidence-based programs that will assist in a productive transition. Obtaining the status from the Federal government to name our county as a HIDTA (High Intense Drug Traffic Area) would assist in many ways. The HIDTA program currently funds 752 initiatives throughout the nation, including:
- Enforcement initiatives comprising multi-agency investigative, interdiction, and prosecution activities;
- Intelligence and information-sharing initiatives;
- Support for programs that provide assistance beyond the core enforcement and intelligence and information-sharing initiatives; and
- Drug use prevention and drug treatment initiatives
As the Sheriff of Vance County, I would listen to the citizens and their concerns as well as be accessible to all people by communicating effectively.
(The photo accompanying this article provided by Melissa Elliott.)
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