Sheriff looks back on 8 years
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Dec 10, 2013, 15:57
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Sheriff Greg Anderson sits in his office for one of the last times, surrounded by years of memories, as he is retiring at the end of the month.
HOPEWELL — As the days on the calendar wind down for the year, so is the time Greg Anderson will serve as sheriff for the city of Hopewell. Sitting in his office surrounded by years of memories and memorabilia, Anderson reflects on his time wearing the uniform.
The road to the office in the courthouse of Hopewell, started with his father, Lt. Richard Anderson, who served as a Hopewell police officer, and Anderson’s time serving as a juvenile probation officer. Though his father passed away in 2008, Anderson’s voice carries a weight of pride, pride that he served the city just as his father had.
“Dad and I combined had 52 years consecutive service to the city of Hopewell,” Anderson said. “Which just kind of makes me beam, makes me proud.”
Though his path to the sheriff’s office was not planned, Anderson was honored to serve as the sheriff. Part of his honor comes from serving in the Army as a Vietnam War veteran. Anderson said he made a promise while overseas to make his community a better place upon his return. It was a promise that he kept, such as serving as 28 years as a juvenile probation officer and eight years as the sheriff.
In the first sheriff’s election, Anderson beat his opponent. And while he was pleased, it was the election held four years later that has him elated.
In the second sheriff’s election, Anderson ran unopposed and said that moment in his life was one that can only be described as a word not found in the dictionary, but one in his own heart, “wowilicous.”
“I truly wanted to serve the citizens of this city and try to do good deeds and good things for the people of this city,” Anderson said.
Growing up in Hopewell since the age of 12, Anderson has held a sense of community pride in his heart, pride that radiates off his badge and pride that he used to fight back against the opposition he faced when he unveiled his I-295 Safety Program six years ago.
Anderson said when he rolled out the program six years ago, he was not developing anything new but instead was working with programs the state had already drafted and implemented, programs that had been in existence in Virginia for over 40 years.
“So when they jumped on my program as the Sheriff of Hopewell, I didn’t take any of their negative verbiage and connotations so I would fight back,” Anderson said. “… I didn’t recreate the wheel. It was a program that had existed for 40 years in Southside Virginia and it was highly successful in all those localities.”
The I-295 Safety Program has proven to be highly successful for the city of Hopewell. Aptly dubbed the “The Million Dollar Mile,” the program has in fact netted millions for the city, as much as $2 million, though a portion of the tickets now go to the state.
Senate Bill 500 states that when local fines and fees collected exceed 40 percent of total revenue, the state will require 50 percent of the excess revenue will be transferred to the state’s Literary Fund.
According to the Virginia Department of Education, the Literary Fund provides low-interest loans for school construction, grants under the interest rate subsidiary program, debt service for technology funding, and support for the state’s share of teacher retirement.
The I-295 Safety Program has also come under fire from AAA Mid-Atlantic. A press release came out in April of last year, standing in opposition to the program.
Martha Meade, from AAA Mid-Atlantic, said AAA is not against writing tickets for speeders. She said this not an issue of public safety.
“It is about the fact that the number of tickets seems extraordinarily high,” Meade said back in April.
Meade said AAA is not against speed enforcement. She had said AAA wants to make sure that drivers are safe on roadways. However, she also said AAA is not sure that is happening with this I-295 project.
“Is this in the name of traffic safety or is it a revenue generating machine,” Meade said.
The “Million Dollar Mile” has not only been one of Anderson’s accomplishments, one he calls his “sensational accomplishment,” but has also been one of his biggest challenges, challenges in the the opposing viewpoints and harsh words that have been printed and spoken about the program. Despite the negativity, Anderson is still proud of the program and speaks highly of the effect it has on the people, the city and the state.
“It’s a win, win, win,” Anderson said. “It’s a win for the motoring public. It makes it a safer highway. It’s a win for the city of Hopewell because I’ve never hidden behind the fact it dumps a lot of money into the Hopewell city treasury and it’s a win for the state of Virginia because the state also makes a lot of money off of it. It’s a great program.”
For Anderson, it was not just about the traffic safety program, but it was also about the team that he had built while in the sheriff’s office, a team that he said has years of experience.
“I’m proud of the team we’ve built, I’m proud of our professionalism, our dedication to the community,” Anderson said. “The customer-oriented attitude. Hey, we work for the citizens of Hopewell, we’re going to demonstrate a positive attitude and we’re going to run this office in a professional fashion.”
It is also a team that Anderson is walking away from at the end of month, though his confidence has not wavered for the continued success of the sheriff’s office. Anderson, who recently celebrated his 65th birthday, felt it was time to abdicate the position and take a break.
Lt. Luther Sodat won the November election for the position of sheriff. The race was close with less than 400 votes between Sodat and challenger Cathie Mitchell. The third challenger in the election, John Hunter, only received 12 percent of the votes with 664 total. Mitchell came up with 2,161 votes, 40 percent and Sodat won with 2,549 votes, 47 percent.
“I just felt like it was time to turn the reins over to somebody different and I had a world of confidence with my team and Sodat’s team. We could get a good man in here who knew how to run the office, had been here for 24 years,” Anderson said. “I felt very good about turning the reins over to him. It comes a point in everyone’s life when it’s time to step down.”
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Memorabilia sits around the office of Sheriff Greg Anderson
Anderson already has his best laid plans for his impending retirement. He is purchasing a new truck, a truck camper and going out West for six to eight months and seeing what the world has to offer.
As Anderson speaks about his plans after stepping down as sheriff and taking himself out West, there is still a gleam in his eye that suggests he is not done with serving the people of the city of Hopewell.
“Sheriff Anderson is most likely going to be bored come next Fall and he’s been approached by several people and he’s giving very serious consideration to running as the Ward 1 councilor for the city of Hopewell,” Anderson said. “I don’t feel as though I’m done yet.”
The Ward 1 seat is currently held by Christina Luman-Bailey.
For now though, Anderson is done. He is ready to embrace this next chapter in his life and step into the role of being a retired Hopewell sheriff. Before he steps out of his office, which houses pictures, certificates, and seashells from Anderson’s fishing expeditions, Anderson tells the residents of Hopewell, thank you and says his last goodbye, as Sheriff Greg Anderson.
“Hey I love you, thank you for such a high honor of putting your faith in me and I really tried my best. ... I tried to be creative and innovative so that I could put my city in the best light. It was a great opportunity. I really liked it. We did a lot of good things.”