Incumbent takes every challenger seriously

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 6, 2005

Suffolk Sheriff Raleigh H. Isaacs Sr., has pounded his share of pavement recently.

The city’s sheriff for the past 12 years, Isaacs, who is being challenged on Tuesday by political newcomer Timothy L. Mallory, has visited civic league meetings, shaken hands and fielded questions for weeks.

Isaacs said the gist of his campaign can be summed up in a few words: professionalism, effective leadership, experience and community service.

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The Suffolk Sheriff’s Office is responsible for providing security in the Mills E. Godwin Jr., Courthouse, and serving all civil process papers within the city.

Since his first year in office, the number of papers served annually has more than doubled, jumping from 45,000 in 1994 to approximately106,000 this year, Isaacs said.

The courthouse on North Main Street opened on Isaacs’s watch, creating seven courts that fall under the watchful eye of his three dozen full- and part-time employees.

Although most of his $1.5 million budget is funded by the state, the city foots the bill for four full-timers tasked with courthouse security. Isaacs has opted to fill those positions with part-time retired police officers.

“That has created a win-win situation for everyone,” he said. “We are saving the city about $150,000 a year because they don’t have to pay fringe benefits and we are getting employees who average more than 25 years in law enforcement experience.”

Isaacs, a Suffolk native, had more than three decades of law enforcement experience before being elected sheriff in 1994. He spent the first nine years of his career with the Norfolk Police Department. He spent the next two decades working with the Suffolk Police Department, leaving after being elected sheriff.

“I think our biggest challenge is keeping up with the state-mandated responsibilities … with the increasing population and commerce coming into the city at this time,” said the incumbent candidate. “I have a professional, informed staff who knows their responsibilities and perform them well.”

During his years in office, Isaacs’ office had helped established a number of community service programs: the Sheriff’s Scholarship, with provides financial assistance to local high school graduates pursuing law enforcement careers; an annual basketball tournament fundraiser; National Night Out; and juvenile gun-safety programs.

Just last week, more than 300 senior citizens turned out for the annual Senior Citizens Forum sponsored the sheriff’s office. Participants learned about identify theft, planned changes to Medicare that are in the pipeline, and tax-relief programs for the elderly.

Sponsoring these programs is a small way of giving back to the community, Isaacs said.

“I am elected by citizens. The citizens of Suffolk are my boss, and I want everything we do to have a positive impact on them.

“I learned early in life the importance of respecting and helping those less fortunate than I.”

Isaacs also serves on more than a dozen professional and civic boards. He was recently elected the 2005-06 president of the Virginia Sheriff’s Association.

Isaacs is confident that the citizens of Suffolk will reelect him to a fourth term.

Nonetheless, he takes Mallory’s challenge seriously.

“When someone announces he will run for office, we proceed full-speed ahead to protect the investment we have in our employees,” Isaacs said. “Every opponent is a serious opponent.”