by John Downs, Sr.
For the first time in 42 years, Chesapeake has a new Sheriff. Colonel Jim O’Sullivan assumed the top post at a swearing in ceremony on October 1, 2012. Hundreds of friends, relatives, well-wishers, and elected officials flooded the City Hall Council chambers as Colonel O’Sullivan took the oath of office. He officially became only the third individual to serve as Chesapeake’s Sheriff since its incorporation as a city in 1963. O’Sullivan succeeds Sheriff John Newhart who had reigned as Virginia’s longest serving Sheriff.
Chesapeake Commissioner of the Revenue Ray Conner served as master of ceremonies. After opening remarks from United States Congressman Randy Forbes, outgoing Sheriff Newhart expressed gratitude to his community and his staff for his extraordinary tenure in office. Chesapeake Clerk of the Court Faye Mitchell then administered the oath of office to O’Sullivan. Afterward, Sheriff Newhart carefully pinned the new Sheriff’s insignia on O’Sullivan’s uniform. Both men received several spontaneous standing ovations from the overflow crowd in the chambers.
As Undersheriff, O’Sullivan had assumed most of the duties of Sheriff as Newhart’s official retirement date neared. “I can’t explain what an honor it is to be chosen to continue Sheriff Newhart’s legacy,” O’Sullivan said respectfully, “I appreciate the confidence Sheriff Newhart has shown me. He’s been my mentor and a great friend. Chesapeake owes John Newhart a huge debt of gratitude for his many years of service.”
O’Sullivan intends to continue the many popular and helpful programs of his predecessor such as the Elderly and Indigent Victims of Crime Program. “We’ll also be delivering holiday food baskets just as in the past,” he promises “And, of course, the Great American Food Fest will continue every year. That’s a Chesapeake tradition and is really a tribute to Sheriff Newhart and his dedication to the community.”
O’Sullivan also expressed his gratitude for the strong support Newhart gave him for a youth leadership program he started several years ago. “It’s called Children Today, Leaders Tomorrow,” O’Sullivan explains, “We take both young men and young women from throughout the community and provide mentorship to them with volunteers from our staff. It really is a successful way to develop positive values in the youth of our city who will become tomorrow’s leaders.”
Sheriff O’Sullivan will face a number of immediate challenges for his new administration. “We’re severely overcrowded in our jail,” he explained, “A jail that was built to house approximately 500 inmates now sees nearly 1,200 on a daily basis. Like all city departments, we also face difficult decisions every day in budgetary considerations. But we will meet these problems head-on. I learned well from Sheriff Newhart and I have no intention of letting him or the citizens of Chesapeake down.”
O’Sullivan’s temporary term will run until he faces a general election bid in November of 2013. Judging from the number of community leaders and elected officials at the ceremony, O’Sullivan will enjoy widespread support for his new administration.
As for John Newhart, now officially a private citizen, he plans to do a lot of traveling. “There are many places around the world that I’ve always wanted to visit, but as I told Jim O’Sullivan, if he ever needs me, I’m just a phone call away.”