Allen fulfills childhood dream with win as next sheriff

Published 10:58 pm Tuesday, November 8, 2022

SALISBURY — Republican Travis Allen has wanted to be sheriff since he was seven years old and met the then-sheriff of Rowan County at McDonald’s one day.

“When I was 7 years old, I was at McDonald’s and the sheriff walked in. He was a ‘Wild West’ sheriff, with the .45 on his hip and the tie, and he was really tall. I was in awe, and I asked my mom who he was. He heard me and he came over and talked with me. I told my mom that day ‘I want to be him.’ ”

Allen bested Democratic challenger Carlton Killian in the race for Rowan County sheriff Tuesday night with nearly 72 percent of the vote, according to the N.C. Board of Elections.

“I was hoping to beat Kevin Auten’s record of 74 percent but I’ll take 72,” Allen said, beaming. He and his wife, Michelle, were joined by about 150 well wishers at the Wallace Education Center on Tuesday evening to watch the numbers roll in.

Neither candidate has experience in a leadership role of a public safety department but Allen did have the benefit of bigger name recognition having served on the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education.

Both men have spent their entire careers in law enforcement. Allen has more than 20 years in the field, starting as a Salisbury police officer before switching to the sheriff’s office where he became a detective. Killian has more than 35 years of experience, starting as an East Spencer police officer then switching to state police, then after retirement working as a private security officer for the Social Security Administration at the office in Salisbury.

The focus of Killian’s campaign was training, and he said he would not change anything about how he ran his campaign.

“I understand if someone does something wrong of course you need to lock them up, but you can’t beat training,” Killian said Tuesday night. “You need to have options, alternatives. And your community needs to like you, to trust you. Most of all, the department is going to have to look like the community it represents, and right now it doesn’t.”

In his campaign he reiterated that “greater crime prevention is possible in our area by making sure every deputy is thoroughly trained in the areas of de-escalation, domestic violence, crisis intervention and sensitivity training.”

At the end of November, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office will see nine members of the command staff retire.

“You can’t replace that kind of experience in weeks, even in years,” Killian said.

Allen said he will miss the experience, but he has confidence in the layers coming behind the men retiring.

“Sheriff Auten has done a tremendous job of grooming those who are coming up through the ranks,” he said. “I am also inheriting a good, solid program. There is nothing broken about the department.”

Allen said his goal is to improve recruiting, the department’s ability to promote itself, and, importantly, work in the jails, both in numbers of deputies working and the work itself.

He also said one of his main goals is “helping Salisbury address their gun violence. If we do well, they do well, and vice versa. Right now, we are at full staff on patrol and they are down a lot. When we have the retirements of course we’ll have some holes, but we need to work together as a team, and helping them address that is important.” He said with Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes retiring at the end of the year, there will be a new chief and a new sheriff to start together.

Allen had nothing but praise for Killian, saying the two have known one another for years, and both ran a clean, proper campaign with neither attacking the other.

“I am so happy for him,” said Michelle Allen. “He so deserves this. He has paid his dues, and he’s been overlooked so many times but he’s stuck it out. He’s going to be surrounded by a great team.”

“It’s been a long two years, but politics is a numbers game,” said Allen. “Any of the guys I won against in the primary would have these same numbers. But I’m not the Republican’s sheriff, I’m everybody’s sheriff. I want to reach across the aisle and build those relationships.”

According to unofficial results, Allen received 34,437 votes to Killian’s 13,249. Results are expected to be certified by Rowan County Board of Elections.

Allen will be sworn in Dec. 1.