Editor’s Note this story was updated at 1:25 pm on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018
By Chad Nesbitt
Asheville – Monday December 3rd was a historical day in Buncombe County as Quentin Miller (D) was sworn in as the first African American Sheriff of the county. Hundreds gathered at the Buncombe County Court House for the swearing-in ceremony. Those in attendance were friends and family of Sheriff Miller, leaders of the Democrat Party, judges, and law enforcement officers.
Chief District Judge Calvin Hill presided over the ceremony. Former chairman of the Buncombe County Democrat Party Bruce Peterson introduced Sheriff Miller and his wife Karen.
Once sworn in Miller said, “I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Miller said, “I look forward to doing what we talked about and that is being a community of “We.” Miller then said, “We know this is about De-escalation. This is going to be a learning curve. We all have to come to the table and be honest and transparent.”
“It’s not my office. It’s our office and help us transition into 21st Century policing,” Miller said. “I’m in a good place. The Sheriff’s office is left in a really good place and that’s because of Van Duncan.” Former Sheriff Van Duncan did not attend the ceremony. Duncan said, “I had a previous scheduled meeting with friends.”
Officers the Leader spoke with said Miller was late swearing in as Sheriff. One deputy that wanted to remain anonymous said, “Sheriff Duncan made Randy Smart interim Sheriff until Sheriff Miller could be sworn in.” Sheriff Van Duncan confirmed that Smart was made interim until Miller took over. Duncan said, “The state told me my last day was November 30th so I put Randy Smart in charge until Quentin could be sworn in.”
According to NC General Statutes sheriffs newly elected in November are scheduled by law to take office on the first Monday in December after the election. This pursuant to N.C. Gen. Statute 163-1.
Buncombe County Board of Elections Director Trena Parker said, “The law just says a new sheriff is to take office on the first Monday in December. It doesn’t give a specific time.”
Tennessee Attorney John Lauter said, “A new sheriff really needs to be sworn in at 12 am because his job demands it. You never know when a deputy may get shot or catastrophic thing might happen.” Lauter said, “Just imagine someone started shooting people at a concert and Quinten started making decisions, directing officers without legally being sworn in. A good defense lawyer would have fun with that. For legality reasons the newly-elected sheriff needs to go in at 12 am.”
Duncan told the Leader, “Even though the state said I had to retire November 30th if something catastrophic happened I would be there until Quentin was sworn in.”
WHAT WAS SAID/NOT SAID AT THE CEREMONY
Sheriff Miller did not say how the de-escalation of a police force was going to stop Buncombe’s opioid problem or school safety except to say de-escalation was going to be a “learning curve”.
Buncombe County resident Marissa Martin attended the ceremony. Martin said, “I am a black woman who voted for Shad Higgins but Miller is now sheriff and I stand behind him.”
Asked why she didn’t vote for Quentin Miller? Martin said, “I am concerned for the safety of these officers and our community. He, (Miller), supports handing these needles out like that place in West Asheville where I live. To me this just tells more drug dealers to come to my neighborhood. How’s that gonna stop drugs in our communities and our schools?” Martin said, “I am a Christian woman and I am trusting that Mr Miller will do the right thing.”
WHO IS IN CHARGE?
According to the command structure charts sent out to officers, Sheriff Miller’s right hand man is Chief Deputy Don Eberhartd and comes highly recommended from all local law enforcement communities. In a Facebook post Eberhartd said, “I became an officer because I see the profession as a ministry, a ministry to be a blessing to others.” Eberhartd said, “The real task in today’s law enforcement profession is leaving the person in a better situation after the encounter than they were before the encounter.”
Miller has chosen Darryl Fisher to run the Buncombe County Jail and security at the courthouse. Fisher made some controversial statements that went national while he was running for sheriff in the Buncombe County Democrat primary. In a video from a Mom’s Demand Action meeting in early March 2018 Fisher says, “You’ve heard people say, “You’ll have to pry my guns from my cold dead hands. Well…OK.” In an exclusive interview with the Leader, Fisher said he just meant that “all in good humor.” (see pictures below for complete detail of chain of command structure)
MILLER’S LETTER TO OFFICERS
An anonymous source has provided the Leader a letter from Miller to all Buncombe County Sheriff Department employees. It includes a list of the chain of command. It is as follows:
”The Community of WE Here at the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office
Today, I am humbled and honored to be sworn in as the next Sheriff of Buncombe County. I look forward to working with you, and continuing to provide the excellent service to the residents of Buncombe County that has been a hallmark of the Sheriff’s Office.
As with any new administration, there will be some organizational changes. Attached you will find new organizational charts for our Sheriff’s Office. Please be advised that if you have not had a one-on-one conversation with myself, or another member of Command Staff regarding a change of assignment, you are safe to assume that you will continue in your present duties as assigned, at your current pay rate.
Again, I look forward working with all of you, as well as getting to know all of you. This is a large agency, and we serve a large community—there will be a learning curve for us working together as a team, but I am committed to making sure that we continue to excel in our work to serve the residents of Buncombe County as we build “The Community of WE”.
Editor’s Note: For those would go as far as to look-up Mrs. Martin’s registration it is not listed under that name. While she goes by “Marissa” that is not the name she is registered under with the Buncombe County Board of Elections. I can tell you I understand that because at the Board of Elections in Madison County they have me as Charles, but I go by “Clint.”
New Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office Chain of Command Charts