HILLSBOROUGH — Retired lawman Charles Blackwood stayed roughly 500 votes ahead of his opponent throughout the night Tuesday to become Orange County’s next sheriff.
Blackwood garnered 4,193 votes to opponent David Caldwell Jr.’s 3,653 votes. Roughly 9 percent of the county’s registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s Democratic primary runoff to replace longtime Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass.
Since there are no Republican candidates, he will be unopposed in November and will take the oath of office in December. Pendergrass, who is retiring after 32 years as sheriff, had endorsed Blackwood, his former second in command, for the office.
Blackwood, who celebrated his victory Tuesday night with family and supporters in Hillsborough, said he’s ready to go.
“We had a lot of people work tirelessly on this election,” he said, “and the citizens of the county made their choice.”
Caldwell, a retired sheriff’s lieutenant, called to congratulate Blackwood after watching the results with supporters in Carrboro. The 61-year-old environmental justice organizer and director of the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association said he’s ready to get back to work in the community.
“This is not a stumbling block. This is a steppingstone,” Caldwell said. “There’s something positive in everything, and you can’t let it get you down.”
Blackwood beat Caldwell and four other candidates to win the May 6 primary, but he didn’t get at least 40 percent of the vote. State law entitled Caldwell to ask for a runoff.
Election reports filed July 10 show Blackwood raised $43,800 – nearly five times Caldwell’s reported total of $9,222 – in the first six months of the year. Blackwood spent $37,715 compared to $8,917 for Caldwell.
Blackwood, 54, was hired as a deputy under the previous sheriff in 1980. He worked his way up through the department, retiring in 2012 as the sheriff’s major of operations. He then was appointed to serve on the Orange County Jury Commission.
In 2011, he was chosen to help develop the Sheriff’s Leadership Institute for newly elected sheriffs across the state. Former Gov. Beverly Perdue awarded him The Order of The Long Leaf Pine – the state’s highest civilian honor – in 2012 for dedicated service to the State of North Carolina.
The 1978 Chapel Hill High School graduate still lives in town with his wife, Lisa Williams Blackwood. They have two children.
Blackwood said he brings experience to the job and will immediately put it to work targeting property crimes and illegal drug sales. It’s also important for the department to work with courts and parents to curb drug use at an early age and educate the community about illegal drugs.
“The drugs killing our kids are not coming across the border,” Blackwood said. “They’re coming out of medicine cabinets in our homes.”
His other priorities involve making sure the county has a well-trained sheriff’s office and modern technology for tracking crimes, identifying potential problems and working more closely with other departments, he said.
The working relationship between the sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office, judges and defense attorneys is just as important, he said.