By Tim Gardner
The Avery County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting on June 29 at the Avery County Community Center in Newland, to discuss the current vacancy of Sheriff and to appoint a new Interim Sheriff.
The commissioners approved appointing Mike Henley as Interim Sheriff, which also was approved by the Avery County Republican Party (GOP) Executive Committee.
Various family members, friends, associates and colleagues of Henley’s were on hand to witness him being sworn in.
Henley released the following statement about becoming Interim Sheriff:
“I am honored and blessed to have been appointed Sheriff to complete the former Sheriff’s term as well as our successful election win in May. I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every voter who demonstrated their support and confidence during this primary election. I am humbled by the entire experience.
“Even though there are many challenges we face as a department during this transition, I look forward to serving the citizens of Avery County. We are committed to working together with our government leaders to make Avery County the best place we can.”
The commissioners could have voted to confirm or reject the GOP Executive Committee’s recommendation either by vote or consensus. But the commissioners had to approve such an appointment before Henley or any other person could assume the post on an interim basis.
Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. said the commissioners were likely to confirm Henley as Interim Sheriff as the appointment process is basically a formality.
The Avery County Board of Commissioners consists of: Martha Hicks, Chairperson; Tim Phillips, Vice-Chairman; Dennis Aldridge, Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr.; and Blake Vance.
Henley defeated Chief Deputy Lee Buchanan and former deputy Russell Carver in Avery County’s May Republican Primary Election. Henley got 2,885 votes, Buchanan received 1,094 and Carver tallied 174.
Henley won by such a high percentage (69.47) that he avoided any potential petition to the Avery County Board of Elections for a primary election run-off.
Buchanan resigned as Chief Deputy shortly after his election loss.
Danny Phillips had served as Interim Sheriff since January 28, 2022, but he desired to step down from the post in June. He had replaced long-time Sheriff Kevin Frye, who retired on January 4, 2022.
Phillips was nominated and approved by a vote to serve as Interim Sheriff by the Avery County Republican Party (GOP) Executive Committee. That recommendation was then confirmed by the County Commissioners.
If Henley wins this fall’s General Election on November 8 against any write-in candidate or candidates he may have, he will begin serving as Sheriff at a swearing-in ceremony in December. If no write-in candidates file for Sheriff, Henley will automatically become Sheriff then regardless of how many votes he receives as there was no Democrat to file for the office by the 12:00 noon filing deadline on March 4, 2022. Had a Democrat or Democrats filed, he, she and/or they would have been on the General Election ballot to face Henley and any write-in candidate or candidates.
In order to run in the General Election as a write-in candidate, that person or persons must obtain a petition of a minimum of 500 signatures of Avery County’s registered voters endorsing such a candidacy. And that petition would have to be submitted to the Avery County Board of Elections officials at least 90 days (August 9 deadline) before the General Election.