By Tim Gardner.
Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye is stepping down from the post and will become Director of Criminal Justice Programs for the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association.
Frye said in a Facebook social media post that he has tendered his resignation, effective January 31, 2022. He has held the position for 15 years and had previously indicated that he would not seek re-election in 2022. On February 1, 2022, Frye will begin his new job with the Sheriff’s Association.
Frye first was elected as Avery’s Sheriff in 2006 and was re-elected three times. He garnered more than 60 percent of the vote two of the three times he was re-elected.
His full Facebook post concerning his resignation reads:
“To the great citizens of Avery County—Fifteen years ago this month (December 2006), I took the oath for the Office of Avery County Sheriff for the first time. Since that time, I have given my heart and soul, blood, sweat, and tears to this office and this county. We have faced many tragedies, overcame many obstacles, and accomplished some great things working together to make life better for every Avery County citizen. I can honestly say being sheriff has been the greatest honor and privilege, I could have ever imagined. I sincerely want to thank everyone for their prayers and support over the past 15 years, it has been a remarkable journey.
“A journey that saw some deep valleys, such as when Lt. (Lieutenant) Keith Laws passed away, and a journey that saw some high peaks like being elected to serve as the NC Sheriff’s President. Through all the valleys and peaks, the driving force has always been to do what was best for this county and the citizens. I have had the most dedicated and remarkable staff of deputies, jailers, detectives, and administration personnel throughout this journey. They never get the credit or recognition they deserve. These servants always put their own health and safety at risk to try to serve the public, whether it be responding to domestics or taking meals and medications to the elderly during a pandemic. I have served with the best of the best and they are what has made this office a positive example throughout the state.
“So, it is with a heavy but very grateful heart that I tender my resignation effective the last of January and begin a new journey beginning in February of 2022. There are too many to thank individually for helping with our success but know that I love this county, I love its citizens and I know that with the dedicated people that are here now, this county is in great hands for the future. May God continue to bless Avery County and its leaders.”
Frye also especially expressed deep appreciation to Avery County’s citizens as well as his staff– deputies, jailers, detectives and administration personnel, who he said never get the credit or recognition they deserve.
Frye released the following statement on December 27 about his new job: “So many have asked and I can now make it official. Beginning February 1, 2022, I will be the Director of Criminal Justice Programs for the NC Sheriff’s Association. I am honored and excited about this new journey. This will be about coordinating and implementation of training for sheriffs and their personnel, grants and the statewide misdemeanor confinement program. It is a huge undertaking, but one I look forward to. I love the office of sheriff, and this allows me to continue making sheriffs’ offices across the state better trained and equipped to meet the challenges ahead.”
According to state election officials, the position of sheriff of Avery County will be filled through a nominating process by the county’s Republican Executive Committee and the 19 county election precinct representatives. With Frye’s official resignation taking effect in February 2022, the Executive Committee and precinct representatives will have approximately one month to nominate and vote on an Interim Sheriff. After coming to a consensus for a nominee for Sheriff, the Avery County Board of Commissioners would be the governing body to provide final confirmation.
If a decision cannot be rendered by these aforementioned bodies, the Avery County Coroner (John Millan) would assume the responsibilities of sheriff under current state and county law.
According to the Avery County Board of Elections, two candidates have officially filed for Avery County Sheriff, including current Chief Deputy Lee Buchanan and Mike Ellenburg. Election signs asking for support for the candidacies of two more—Mike Henley and Russell Carver—are on display in the county. But Henley and Carver have not officially filed for Sheriff, according to Joseph Trivette, Deputy Director of the Avery County Board of Elections.
But the North Carolina Supreme Court has currently suspended filing for all election offices and moved the March 8 primary to May 17.
North Carolina’s 2022 primary election must be delayed as gerrymandering lawsuits continue that could lead to redrawn districts, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled.
By virtue of the court order, candidates whose filing has already been accepted by the board “will be deemed to have filed for the same office” in the May primary, subject to their ability to withdraw in the new filing period once that period is established. It’s also subject to any court rulings that would impact that candidate’s eligibility to run for office.
However, now the Supreme Court is ordering a speedy timeline for a court trial ruling. The trial must be finished by no later than January 11, 2022. The court order also mandates a quick process for any appeals that might come after the trial. Then the court’s explicit invocation of “urgency,” could indicate the justices hope to have the case decided well before the May primaries, leaving enough time to redraw the maps if they are ruled to be unconstitutional.