Commissioners hold ceremony renaming justice center in honor of retired sheriff Auten

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, June 19, 2024

SALISBURY — During an emotional ceremony on Monday, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners proclaimed the renaming of the county justice center in honor former Sheriff Kevin Auten.

The ceremony, which was held at the beginning of the commissioners’ meeting, consisted of a gathering before the meeting proclamation honoring Auten and the commissioners speaking about what his work meant to the county in front of Auten’s family.

“Kevin Auten has unselfishly devoted his time through not only law enforcement, but through civic involvement and giving himself to ensure that community needs are not only curbed, but addressed and resolved,” said Vice Chairman Jim Green, reading the commissioners’ proclamation.

Auten began his career in law enforcement in Rowan County as a deputy in the sheriff’s office in 1987. He was appointed sheriff in 2010 after former Sheriff George Wilhelm and was elected to the position three more times before his retirement in 2022.

“When I was getting ready to run, my dad, who I was close to, he said ‘come over to the house and let me talk to you before I decide if I’m going to support you.’ And when I walk across the street, he’s sitting on the front porch, and in my family you don’t go to the front porch, that’s just for show, you go to the side or the back porch, so I knew dad was serious. He said, ‘I got one question. What’s your plan?’ I told him I had a plan and what it was. He said, ‘let’s go to work.’ And he never stopped working,” said Auten.

Auten said that his father, Gene Auten, had one condition on his support. The sheriff could not run any negative campaign messaging. Gene Auten died in June of 2011, six months after Auten took office as the elected Rowan County Sheriff for the first time.

“When it came time to run for re-election my mother said, ‘Remember your dad’s rule, no negative campaigns.’ And I stood by that and I will always stand by that,” said Auten.

Auten thanked his family for their support during his time in law enforcement, as well as thanking people throughout his life that supported him and taught him life lessons. Those Auten thanked included his middle school baseball coach Clement Fleming, close friend and Edgecombe County Sheriff Cleveland Atkinson, his Sunday school teacher and former District Attorney Bill Kennerly and former sheriff’s office Major Tim Bost.

“My name’s on that building, but there’s hundreds of people that go in and out of there and continue to do a great job, and that’s what it’s really about. I just got all the recognition just like dad won the election but I got the job,” said Auten.

The signage for the Kevin L. Auten Justice Center was put onto the front of the building earlier this year.