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Mecklenburg Sheriff Bailey won’t seek reelection

After 41 years in local law enforcement, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Chipp Bailey confirmed Friday that he won’t run for another four-year term next year.

The Observer reported in May that Bailey, sheriff since 2008, was considering not running. But Friday, he said he’ll be 66 at the end of his current term and decided that not seeking reelection was “in the best interest for the continuity of the agency.”

He said he emailed department employees last Thursday of his decision not to run.

“I made it official with them so that going into the holiday period everybody would know what was going on,” said Bailey, who during free time over the years authored three mystery novels that drew on his experiences. “After 41 years in law enforcement, I think it’s time to step back and let someone else carry the torch.”

Even before Bailey made his retirement public, Democrats Irwin Carmichael and Antoine Ensley and Republican Chris Hailey announced that they want the job and have started campaigning for it.

Carmichael is a longtime sheriff’s deputy, and recently retired engineer for the Charlotte Fire Department. Ensley is a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer who unsuccessfully ran against Bailey in the 2010 primary. Hailey, Bailey’s unsuccessful opponent in the general election that year, is a former N.C. Highway Patrol officer who currently heads public safety training at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte.

Bailey was elected in 2010, but was appointed two years earlier to succeed his friend, longtime Sheriff Jim Pendergraph, who left office in 2007 to take a job in the federal Homeland Security department.

Bailey’s appointment by county commissioners in February 2008 followed weeks of controversy that saw Democratic Party officials pick Nick Mackey in a disputed election. After political and legal challenges, commissioners decided to go with the low-key Bailey.

“I knew that if I stayed and ran again, I would need to commit to be here a full term,” Bailey said. “I didn’t want to put this agency through the same thing when Jim left.

“I want all the citizens of Mecklenburg County making the choice and not just a small group.”

Proud of accomplishments

He and Pendergraph met as rookie patrolmen in 1972 with the old county police department. In the 1980s, Bailey was the face of the department as head of public affairs, fielding calls from reporters and going on camera. When city and county police consolidated in 1993, Bailey was assigned to administrative work.

He was overseeing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s planning and research section when Pendergraph was elected sheriff in 1994 and made Bailey his chief deputy. In that job, he ran the sheriff’s department’s day-to-day operations, helping oversee more than 1,400 employees and a budget of more than $100 million.

Bailey’s tenure as sheriff hasn’t been without conflict. Last year, three former department employees sued the sheriff, charging they were fired because they didn’t contribute money to his campaign.

Bailey denied the charges. The three cases are pending.

He said he’s proud of the department’s accomplishments during his tenure, including expanding on the programs that Pendergraph started in the early 2000s to break addiction cycles.

He said he instituted substance abuse and domestic violence counseling for inmates. He brought in instructors to teach subjects that include horticulture and carpentry, so inmates “could start in the workplace and not start as apprentices.

“We’ve worked to break the cycle of addiction and get (inmates) ready to go out into the world.”

Mystery novel author

He was born in Charlotte, son of a Methodist minister. By the time he turned 12, his father, the Rev. Edwin Bailey, was moving the family from church to church, mostly in N.C. towns.

Bailey flirted with marine biology after earning a biology degree at Pfeiffer College in Misenheimer. Instead, he returned to Charlotte and joined the county police after a year of analyzing industrial wastewater for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities.

To deal with job stresses over the years, Bailey spent weekends writing mystery novels, using his given name, Daniel Bailey. Three books, printed by a small Tennessee publisher, take place in the S.C. Low Country and draw on cases he’s been involved in or is familiar with.

In retirement, Bailey said he wants to return to writing.

“I don’t have any definite plans, but I do want to get back to writing,” he said. “We’ll just have to see what the next turn brings.”

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