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Westmoreland Sheriff C.W. 'Buddy' Jackson is being treated for lung cancer.
BY FRANK DELANO
Eighteen months ago, Westmoreland County Sheriff C.W. "Buddy" Jackson said he planned to seek re-election "after I get this little problem taken care of."
Jackson's "little problem" was lung cancer. After months of radiation treatments, he thought he had it licked.
In early March, he announced that he would seek re-election to his ninth term as sheriff, the job he has held and loved for 31 years.
This week, Jackson said that his disease has recurred. He recently spent a week in a hospital.
"Chemotherapy is rough. I can't fight two battles, the election and this, at the same time," he said.
The popular sheriff officially bowed out of Westmoreland politics Tuesday night with a letter declining the county Republican Committee's nomination that was his for the asking.
Jackson did not attend the meeting. He said he is staying away from groups to avoid possible infections.
Jackson, 64, served nine years as a Virginia state trooper assigned to Westmoreland before being elected sheriff in 1975.
Back then, the department had seven employees. Now it has 45, Jackson said.
Back then, deputies received little training. Now they train at the Rappahannock Regional Police Academy, which Jackson helped found.
Back then, county prisoners were locked up in an old jail designed for eight. By the time it closed in 1995, the county was paying "astronomical" rates to house 40 prisoners in other jails, he said.
County prisoners are now held at the Northern Neck Regional Jail, which Jackson also helped establish. The county pays virtually nothing to keep them there because of the income the regional jail receives from keeping federal prisoners.
"His whole life has been law enforcement," said Norm Risavi, county administrator since 1993. "He's never taken a vacation the whole time I've been here.
"He seems to know everybody in the county and who their neighbors and relatives are. His knowledge has proven extremely useful in many situations and emergencies," Risavi said.
"He's also a good manager of his budget and has always turned money back to the county."
Most importantly, Jackson "is an easy-going individual who fits in well with a system that requires cooperation to get anything done," Risavi said.
"I just try to be human," said Jackson. "The key to being a good sheriff is to recognize that there are two sides to every story and to treat everybody the same way you want to be treated.
"I've dealt with people on all sides of the fence. They will respect you if you just give them the time of day to listen."
Jackson said he has seen many changes in Westmoreland politics. He won his first five races as a Democrat, his sixth as an independent and his last two as a Republican.
"Back then, you had some of the finest people in the world in the Democratic Party, but new people moved in and changes started.
"There are changes happening now in the Republican Party. Right-wing people are changing that party. But, regardless of my politics, I've tried to treat everybody above board."
Jackson's exit leaves at least five men who plan to run for the job, which pays about $87,600 in salary and fringe benefits. More candidates may file before the June 12 deadline.
The county Republican committee Tuesday nominated sheriff's Sgt. Ronald Gene Roberts as its candidate. Democrats last week nominated Virginia State Trooper C.O. Balderson.
Jackson's second-in-command, Byron Wilkins, said he plans to run for the seat as an independent, as does Dwayne Stewart, a former school resource officer.
Jackson said he will endorse none of them.
"I'm not going to try to swing the election one way or the other. It's up to the people to decide," he said.
Jackson said he plans to finish his term that ends Dec. 31.
"If I'm able, I'll keep busy doing something, but I've got to get over all this treatment to see if I can get it back together. I'm still kicking. We'll see what happens," he said.Frank Delano: 804/333-3834
Only one of Virginia's 123 sheriffs has served longer than Westmoreland Sheriff C.W. "Buddy" Jackson, says John W. Jones of the Virginia Sheriffs' Association.
Sheriff John R. Newhart of Chesapeake, who took office in 1970, is the state's longest serving sheriff, Jones said.
Jones said Jackson shares second place in longevity with King George County Sheriff Clarence W. "Moose" Dobson and Franklin County Sheriff W.Q. Overton. All all took office Jan. 1, 1976.
Below are the longevity rankings of other local sheriffs and the dates their service began. Jones ranks those who started on the same day in alphabetical order.60. Fredericksburg Sheriff Paul W. Higgs, Jan. 1, 1999
61. Orange Sheriff C.G. Feldman, April 1, 1999
68. Louisa Sheriff Ashland D. Fortune, Jan. 1, 2000
71. Culpeper Sheriff H. Lee Hart, Jan. 1, 2000
73. Stafford Sheriff Charles E. Jett, Jan. 1, 2000
102. Caroline Sheriff Tony Lippa Jr., Jan. 1, 2004
106. Spotsylvania Sheriff Howard D. Smith, Jan. 1, 2004