Local police sergeant Carol Adams is hoping that voters will write her name in on the ballot in the November 7 election for Richmond City Sheriff, a race she entered two weeks ago. The deadline to get on the ballot was June 13, nearly 4 months before the epiphany that led to Adams’s candidacy.
Adams, a devout Christian, talks about her candidacy as a call from God. “Saturday night, something got into me,” she says about the night of October 7th. “And Sunday, I go into work. I’m suppressing something, and I walk into a room and I see this book.”
It’s a cellphone photo of a coloring book for children, with a cover that reads “Meet Your Sheriff,” over a drawing of a black woman. “That was the moment,” she says, describing the realization that she could be the Sheriff. “My family has been asking me about it for years, but I never ran.”
She introduced herself to political supporters at a meet and greet held the Friday after her announcement and talked about the timing, invoking her faith. “This is just the way God wanted it to be. I have a wonderful life, I love my job, I have a nonprofit, but I felt I had to try this,” she said.
Adams might be best known for that nonprofit, the Carol Adams Foundation, started 10 years ago to help victims of domestic violence. It’s an issue that she’s personally familiar with. “My dad murdered my mom when I was 17 years old, and he went to jail. But when he left jail, he was still the same. He never changed.”
Helping inmates change is a key part of her platform, an issue-focused set of policies and ideas that doesn’t target any of the other candidates, who she won’t refer to as opponents. “It’s not about them,” she says. “It’s about what I can do to help people.”
The other candidates include two independents — Nicole Jackson, a former major in the Richmond Sheriff’s office, and local businessman Emmett J. Jafari — and Democrat Antoinette Irving. Irving is the most popular, having beat three-term incumbent C. T. Woody in the June 13 primary during her third run for office. Woody has faced criticism in recent years over inmate overdose deaths, and the revelation that he hired 10 family members to work in his office.
Adams is familiar with the issues around Woody, but doesn’t criticize him by name. “The safety and the security for the individuals there is number one,” she says. “Second is staff morale. People get hired or fired at will by the Sheriff right now. I’d create a transparent system for hiring and promotions, let people know that they can move up the ranks.”
Systems are one of her focuses both for HR concerns and for reentry, the third pillar of her platform. “We’d start preparing them on day one,” she says. “And not just the person in jail. We’d prepare everybody, the family, the community. People come out and have no support.” She envisions a program that builds on the already successful Recovering from Everyday Addictive Lifestyle (R.E.A.L.) program.
She’s confident that she can make the changes needed, citing her long experience in long enforcement. “I worked in the Sheriff’s office for seven years, and I worked as a police officer for 20 years. I’ve seen how the system works from two perspectives.”
Some local clergy have endorsed her, and she cites widespread support in the city. A last-minute meet and greet held at Vagabond just a few days after her announcement drew nearly 40 supporters. “We need people to be at the polling places, we need people to knock on doors and make calls,” she told the small crowd packed into a downstairs room. The campaign doesn’t have a website yet, but supporters and the public can follow the official Facebook page to learn more or get involved. They are looking to find volunteers for the more than 60 polling places in the city.
Running for office required that Adams take early retirement, as city employees are barred from running for or holding office. She’s sad to leave the department, but has no regrets, even if she loses. “This is not about the win. This is a walk with God.”
“Either I’m going to be the Sheriff of Richmond or I’m going to go back to my nonprofit and run it 24 hours a day,” Adams says. “This is a win, win, win situation for everyone.”
*Photos by David Streever