First of her kind: Audrey Mackey promoted to captain

Published 12:10 am Saturday, May 27, 2023

SALISBURY — Audrey Mackey has a reputation at the jail for always respecting the inmates whose care is entrusted to her, but this week, she earned a new distinction as the first Black female captain in the department’s history.

Mackey started as a detention officer in 1997.

“I love what I do,” Mackey said. “That’s why I have been doing it for 26 years.”

Known to the inmates and staff at the jail as Miss Mackey, she has developed a reputation for having a tender heart.

“I love helping people,” Mackey said. “If it changes one person’s life, then that’s what my goal is — to help one person at a time.”

Mackey knows that they are not at their best when she interacts with inmates, but that does not stop her from seeing what is possible with them.

“I listen to them and try to give them direction for resources when they leave (the jail), so they don’t have to return,” Mackey said. “People come here all the time, and after they have been gone for five years, they come back and say, hey, look at me, I am doing good, thank you for that kind word that you said to me.

“Not too long ago, I was at the hospital, and someone ran up to me and said, I just wanted to say thank you, you gave me hope. That’s what it is about to me.”

Mackey indicated that to be promoted as the first Black female captain meant a lot to her.

“It means the hard work that I have put in since 1997, somebody noticed that I do the work and put in 110 percent every day,” Mackey said.

Sheriff Travis Allen indicated that Mackey was in distinguished company.

“There has only been one female captain ever, and that was Sarah Potts back in the late ’70s,” Allen said.

Allen explained that Mackey’s work at the jail had earned her the respect of the inmates.

“If (inmates) feel they are treated fairly and with respect, it goes a long way,” Allen said. “They know if Miss Mackey says it’s going to happen, she is going to keep her word.

“She’s respected by the inmates. She is respected by the employees. She is like that patriarch that has always been there.”

Although not a sworn deputy, Mackey is detention certified by the state.

She started as a regular jailer 20-something years ago and has achieved the highest rank at the jail. She is the only non-sworn captain ever in the jail. All the other captains have been sworn deputies.

Mackey’s promotion represents an awareness of the sheriff to recognize the work of his employees no matter what they look like.

“(Diversity, equity and inclusion) are important,” Allen said. “It’s a hard thing to manage, though, because you want to make sure you are promoting people based on their abilities, not their color or lack of color, their gender or anything. You don’t want that to be the qualifier, but what you want to do is make sure that doesn’t become a disqualifier.

“Minorities should not get special treatment, but you have to protect that they are treated equally and fairly no matter what. I think it states a lot for Mackey, and I talked to her about that. It’s a politically delicate topic, but I want you to know you are the first Black female captain in the jail ever, and I want you to know you got this job because you’re the best.”