Echoing his speech on election night, Quentin Miller began his remarks upon being ceremoniously sworn in as Buncombe County sheriff with thanks to his Lord and savior Jesus Christ, in addition to his wife and their large family. He received a hearty “amen” from a good portion of the packed courtroom in the Buncombe County Judicial Complex just downstairs from his new office.
“Today, I’m really humbled,” Miller continued, “I look forward to working with the community.”
Miller pledged to live up to his campaign promises of promoting the idea of a “community of we” and seeking ways to work together. “We must treat people with dignity and respect,” he emphasized. “We also request that you treat us with dignity and respect.” Referring to former President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, the sheriff also asked for help in moving the department into a new era.
Chief District Court Judge Calvin Hill swore in the recently retired Asheville Police Department sergeant on Dec. 3 at 1:30 p.m. Miller had already been officially sworn in and assumed his duties at midnight according to a press release from Aaron Sarver, Miller’s campaign communications director, who will be continuing in that capacity with the department.
Bruce Peterson, a local former Democratic Party chair, football coach and school principal, whom Miller called “Coach Peterson,” introduced the newly elected sheriff as a Buncombe native who served in the Army and APD, calling him “an honorable man [with a] heart bigger than this room.”
Peterson said he had known Miller since the sheriff was a teenager trying to find his way into manhood. “He was raised in an environment where he had every opportunity to take the wrong path,” Peterson said. “But his mother and his family, they guided him to make sure he took the right path, the path of goodness and righteousness.”
The mood in the room was festive, but Miller’s transition isn’t drama-free. He alluded in his speech to whispers of departmental upheaval. “The Sheriff’s Department was left in a really, really great place, and that was because of Sheriff [Van] Duncan,” he said.
Duncan, Miller said, had provided mentoring and help through the transition process. “I just wanted to put that out … ’cause I know how the rumors and everything runs rampant. I’m learning more about that now,” he quipped.
There will be some personnel changes in the office. Randy Smart, who also ran for the sheriff’s job but lost to Miller in the primary, previously headed detention and court security. He remains at the department and a member of command staff, but his role is changing. Another of Miller’s primary opponents, Daryl Fisher, is coming on as a major to fill the top detention and court security position, according to Sarver.
Miller has also hired APD’s former head of recruitment and career development, Lt. Don Eberhardt. He is replacing Terry Rogers, the Sheriff’s Department chief deputy and head of enforcement and investigations, who endorsed Republican candidate Shad Higgins and subsequently retired at the end of November.
In a brief, informal press conference after the swearing-in, Miller commented on his first priorities and highlighted plans to start town hall-style community engagement as a way to foster togetherness in addressing challenges.