Meads, Jones to run for Camden sheriff

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Kevin Jones

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Monday, February 12, 2018

CAMDEN — The late Camden Sheriff Joe Jones played a key role in the lives of two men expected to file for Camden sheriff in this year’s Republican primary.

Camden Chief Deputy Sheriff Rodney Meads was hired as a deputy by Jones after Meads retired from the Air Force in 1999. North Carolina Highway Patrolman Kevin Jones is the late sheriff’s son.

Both Meads, 61, and Kevin Jones, 55, have filed statements of organization for sheriff — a requirement to raise and spend campaign donations — and are expected to file for the May GOP primary after the filing begins Monday at noon. 

Both Meads and Jones are hoping to succeed current Camden Sheriff Tony Perry, a Democrat who announced in 2016 he does not plan to seek re-election this year.

So far, no Democrats have emerged as potential sheriff’s candidates in Republican-leaning Camden. Perry in fact has already endorsed Meads’ candidacy to succeed him. 

In recent phone interviews, both Meads and Jones cited their long careers in law enforcement as just one of their qualifications to be the county’s next sheriff. 

“I've seen a lot and done a lot and learned a lot,” Meads said. “And my heart has always been with service anyway.”

Meads was referring to his long interest in law enforcement, which began even before his retirement from the military. A native of Weeksville, Meads recalls talking with Pasquotank Sheriff Randy Cartwright while he was on leave about attending Basic Law Enforcement Training.

After completing a 24-year career in the Air Force, Meads completed BLET and was hired by Camden Sheriff Joe Jones as a patrol deputy. After Perry succeeded Jones as sheriff in 2001, Meads would work his way up through the ranks, taking on investigative and management roles within the Camden Sheriff’s Office. Perry eventually would name him chief deputy.

Growing up the son of a sheriff, Jones’ interest in law enforcement started at an early age. That interest also extended to two of Jones’ siblings: one brother, Kelly Jones, is a U.S. marshal; another brother, Keith, retired as a sergeant from the Nags Head Police Department. 

Kevin Jones began his own career with the Elizabeth City Police Department in 1990, working for another law enforcement icon: W.C. Owens Sr. Jones says he’s learned a lot working for Owens, who served as the city’s police chief from 1947 to 1992.

“He was a great man,” Jones recalled. “Everybody respected him, the way he carried himself.”

Jones worked for the Elizabeth City Police Department for four years before joining the Highway Patrol. He said he’s scheduled to retire from the patrol in November. However, with his accrued leave time, he’s eligible to retire as early as June or early July.

Jones said Perry’s announcement that he planned to retire in 2018 played a role in his decision to run for Camden sheriff this year.

“Certainly, the gears started spinning in my head — and that kind of helped me along, as far as making my decision to run,” he said. “I believe that with my experience and ties to Camden County, I think I’ll do well for Camden County as the sheriff.”

Meads said Perry’s decision in 2016 also motivated him to “step up to the plate and give it my all” as a sheriff’s candidate. He said he’s honored to have Perry’s endorsement and believes he and the current sheriff have made a good team. He said he’s seen the office come a long way over the past 17 years.

“Obviously, we're not at a plateau,” Meads said. “We need to continue to grow. We need to continue to be a professional organization. As times change, we have to change.”

Meads said he believes the sheriff’s department’s ultimate responsibility is to keep Camden citizens safe. While he believes there always will be crime and those who commit crime, it’s the sheriff’s office’s job to try to control the incidence of crime as much as possible.

“We have to give them (criminals) a run for their money and keep them in their place,” he said.

But Meads also believes successful law enforcement is more than just deterring and solving crimes. He said good law enforcement requires exceptional service “and some common sense,” and that includes having deputies constantly interacting with citizens.

“It's difficult at times to put in practice, but I believe that members of our office right now have an excellent reputation for their approach in dealing with the issues with the citizens,” he said.

Meads said if he's elected sheriff, he'll be leader who knows when to be firm and when to be compassionate.

Jones also believes in strong interaction between law enforcement and the community. He said he considers himself a “people person” with a strong interest in other people’s concerns.

“Because people know me, they tend to come up to me in the local stores and even call me here at the house with their issues from time to time,” he said. “Even as a state trooper, you wouldn't believe the phone calls that I get on a weekly basis from residents asking about different things and how to handle them. I try to help people the best way I can, and I think people appreciate that.”

Jones said if he’s elected sheriff, he’ll bring leadership skills from the Highway Patrol, which he said features a strict chain of command and follows military etiquette.

“I want to bring that structure and sense of pride and professionalism to the Camden County Sheriff's Department,” he said.

Camden finance records show Meads is paid $54,202 annually. Highway Patrol officials said Jones is paid $61,642 a year.