LUMBERTON — Lumberton Councilman Burnis L. Wilkins made official Tuesday what local political observers expected, that he will join the race to become the next sheriff of Robeson County.
Wilkins, 56, has 35 years of law enforcement experience and 30 years as a volunteer emergency medical technician with Lumberton Rescue and Northwoods Fire Department. He joins Randy Graham, a recently retired Internal Affairs investigator with the Sheriff’s Office, as announced candidates. Sheriff Ken Sealey is not expected to seek re-election, but has yet to make that official.
Wilkins retired as a full-time law enforcement officer in 2012 to seek his current seat on Lumberton City Council, where he now represents Precinct 3. He is a law enforcement training coordinator at Robeson Community College, but continues to be a certified, sworn auxiliary officer with the Lumberton Police Department.
“I will also be filing for my City Council seat in a few weeks to continue my service to the citizens of Lumberton until the results of the sheriff’s election are revealed next year,” said Wilkins, who, like Graham, will run as a Democrat.
Wilkins received a degree in Criminal Justice from Ashworth College in Norcross, Ga., in 2006, and recently was accepted at Liberty University to continue his education. He is a graduate of the N.C. Police Law Institute and holds certifications in more than a dozen areas of law enforcement.
“There should be no doubt that I have the training, experience, certifications, job knowledge skills and contacts, as I have led divisions, developed policies and have developed and managed budgets in the multi-million dollar range,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins has trained officers across the state at such institutions as the N.C. Highway Patrol Academy, Southeastern Community College, Wilson Community College, Cape Fear Community College, Robeson Community College and the N.C. Justice Academy. While at RCC, Wilkins has developed the training programs Driving While Distracted Course for Law Enforcement and First Responders and The Drug Investigator Institute. He was co-founder of the Public Safety Management Program.
“Drug and gang violence has wreaked havoc on this county for years and I am ready to step up and take aggressive action to stop it,” Wilkins said. “Working with local, state and federal partners that I have forged relationships with for decades will be crucial in my plan. These crimes have led Robeson County to be No. 1 for all the wrong reasons, such as in violent crime, murders and property crimes per capita. It’s time for a proven and different approach and I plan to bring it.”
Wilkins was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Gov. Beverly Perdue in 2012. Twice he has received the Outstanding Public Servant Award from the Lumberton Jaycees. Wilkins recently was selected to serve a second term on the State Legislative Action Committee in Raleigh. He is a board member of the Robeson County Teen Court and member of the Robeson County Humane Society.
Wilkins and his wife, Jamie, are members of East Lumberton Baptist Church. His son, Eric Wilkins, and family live in Granbury, Texas. His daughter, Suzanne Jacobs-Graham, and family live in Fairmont. His stepson, Justin, is serving in the U.S. Army.
The race for sheriff in 2018 could be crowded. Lennis Watts, a former state Highway Patrol trooper, former county commissioner and a former sheriff’s candidate; and Ronnie Patterson, Red Springs’ chief of police, have hinted they will run for sheriff.
Sealey was appointed sheriff in 2004 and was re-elected in 2006, 2010 and 2014.
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly