Sheriff says he'll run for fourth term

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Although a rush appears to be on to replace Sheriff George Wilhelm, he says he is not retiring or resigning and plans to seek a fourth term.
Whilhelm said he doesn’t know how all the talk got started about him possibly opting to step down.
And he’s getting ready for his annual fish fry to support his re-election bid. “I guess I’ll have to go ahead and book the Depot,” where he typically holds the fundraiser.
Wilhelm said he has had some inquiries, including from Tony Yon, current chairman of the Rowan County Republican Executive Committee and a deputy. Yon is a former candidate for sheriff.
County officials say Wilhelm has inquired about retirement benefits, including free retiree health insurance, which he doesn’t qualify for currently.
Carl Ford, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, said he has heard a lot of talk for months about Wilhelm’s possible departure.
Ford said Wilhelm has expressed an interest in retirement, as well as possibly running for re-election.
“I know for a fact he may want to retire if the can get the benefit package,” Ford said. “I don’t know that will happen.”
Wilhelm doesn’t qualify under the current policy, according to Ken Deal, director of administration. It requires 20 consecutive years with the county.
Deal said since the sheriff is not a typical county employee, the board of commissioners could adopt a special policy.
A deputy sheriff with the county for 15 years, Wilhelm was fired on Feb. 25, 1995, by former Sheriff Bob Martin after Wilhelm ran against him in the 1994 election.
Wilhelm, 52, joined the Spencer Police Department, mounted a four-year campaign and ousted Martin in the 1998 election. He has served as sheriff since Dec. 7, 1998. He currenty receives $103,000 a year.
Ford also acknowledged that some current officers in the Sheriff’s Office and others have expressed an interest in being appointed to fill out Wilhelm’s term if he resigns. They have talked with commissioners and members of the Republican Executive Committee.
Wilhelm’s term runs through December 2010.
County officials have checked statutes relating to filling the vacancy if it occurs.
Ford said he was a bit surprised to find it allows the Board of Commissioners to fill the post regardless of party affiliation.
When commissioners filled the Register of Deeds position after the retirement of Bobbie Earnhardt, a Democrat, the statute required commissioners appoint the person nominated by the Rowan County Democratic Executive Committee.
Members of the Republican Executive Committee are also fielding requests for support from people wanting to fill the vacancy.
At least one Republican isn’t interested in the job.
Jim Sides, a former county commissioner, said last week he has no interest in being sheriff.
Still laughing at the rumors about his interest in the job, Sides said he was amazed when he first heard it.
He said Salisbury attorney Jeff Morris e-mailed him and then approached him at a meeting to say that the sheriff’s office was in a bit of consternation that Sides was going to be appointed sheriff.
“I don’t want to be sheriff. I want to have four more years as county commissioner,” Sides said. He is already an announced candidate for the board of commissioners in 2010.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.