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Lewis is supervisor of year

Lt. James K. Lewis Sr. doesn’t like to take credit for his accomplishments.

Instead, the Western Tidewater Regional Jail employee deflects the praise onto his supervisors, his officers, his wife and even the military. However, it was Lewis alone who recently was named statewide Supervisor of the Year by the Virginia Association of Regional Jails.

“I have a great staff, supervisors and family,” Lewis said. “I cannot take the credit without giving it to them.”

Lewis’ supervisor, Capt. Antonio Parham, nominated Lewis for the award with a two-and-a-half-page narrative of his accomplishments and community service. When he learned Lewis would receive the award, the next step was getting him to the organization’s Virginia Beach conference recently with a story about giving the performing honor guard a few tips.

“I’m still in shock,” Lewis said, adding that payback is coming for Parham and others who kept the secret. “I’m going to get them back.”

After more than 12 years in the U.S. Army, Lewis left the service and went to work at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail. At the jail, Lewis supervises the work release, workforce and trusty programs. Work release gives nonviolent inmates who have less than a year to serve the opportunity to work jobs in the community to pay off court fines, restitution, child support and other such debts. The workforce program puts inmates to work in the community picking up trash and performing other such tasks, while trusties do work in the jail itself, such as cooking or cleaning.

“I wish I had more officers,” Lewis lamented. “We use all of our time wisely.”

Lewis has been known to supervise workforce crews himself so that more work can get done in the community, Parham said. Workforce crews perform tasks in Suffolk, Franklin and Isle of Wight County, because that is where inmates in the jail come from.

In addition to his official duties, Lewis also coordinates the jail’s Partners in Education program, speaks at career days at area schools and takes young troublemakers on tours of the jail to show them what it is like.

“He basically gives them an opportunity to see what life is like on the other side of the bars,” Parham said.

Lewis said the “Straight Talk” program is important to educate young people on what jail is really like. It is not like it is portrayed on television and in movies, but “we’re not trying to make it look like the Caesar’s Palace, neither,” Lewis said. “We educate them without scaring them. They see the reality of what it’s really like.”

Lewis also is in charge of the jail’s honor guard, which frequently competes in parades and tournaments. The honor guard also provided the perfect excuse to get Lewis to the Virginia Beach conference.

“Some of the people, even though they’re from other jails, they knew about Lt. Lewis,” Parham said of other conference attendees.

Lewis attributed his accomplishments to Parham and other supervisors at the jail, as well as the officers under his command.

“To me, you receive the leadership when you have a person that’s knowledgeable to pass it down,” Lewis said. “[Parham]’s always been behind me. When you get supervisors like him and a couple others, leadership goes a long way.”

Lewis says his leadership style comes from a variety of sources, and he passes it along.

“I took a little bit from [Parham], little bit from the military, little bit from the wife,” he said. “With all that was given to me, I pass it down to my officers, and anybody willing to receive it like I received it.”

Lewis’ award marks the first time a Western Tidewater Regional Jail employee has received the statewide award. He and his wife have three adult sons.