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'Stay safe and God bless,' sheriff says as he signs off

Wishing his successor and sheriff's deputies "safety and wisdom in all the uncertain days ahead," Henderson County Sheriff Charlie McDonald signed off for the last time through his monthly newsletter, The Guardian.

In a message released just before 10 p.m. Sunday night, McDonald recounted the department's achievements under his leadership since 2012, thanked his wife, Jennie, who has "sacrificed more than I in this endeavor," and ended with six verses from Paul's letter to the Philippians. ("Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.")

"While I am sad to be leaving this great community, and while I certainly had greater plans for the future of the Henderson County Sheriff's Office, it was decided by a fair and honest election, that my time was done," McDonald said. "I have come to terms with that."

McDonald said he was referring to the community of deputies in the department, not to relocating from his home in Mills River.

"We don't know what we're going to do," he said. "I could easily move, I could easily stay. We're just going to take the next couple of months to just kind of see where we land. I don't have any job prospects and I'm not really looking for anything. I know the right thing will come along just like this job did."

McDonald's term ends at 6 p.m. Monday when Lowell Griffin is sworn in as sheriff in a ceremony at Living Water Baptist Church on Sugarloaf Road.

Here is the message:

"Hello for the last time from my desk at the Sheriff's Office. This is the final Guardian Newsletter. I appreciate all who looked forward to the messages and agency news that it provided. As I look over the archived past letters, even I am in awe of all that has been accomplished by the men and women who have served my administration the past six years and nine months. These newsletters have captured the highlights of a collective journey made by dedicated public safety servants, through difficult challenges, change, and the pursuit of excellence in every endeavor undertaken. What a journey it has been.

"By embracing new technology and the most current 'best practices' in law enforcement crime reduction, we reduced breaking and entering and property crimes five years running by nearly 50% from when we started. By implementing vigorous promotional processes and leadership development, we were able to hire and promote quality employees. Our deputies, staff, and our volunteers embraced increased professionalism and took great pride in being recognized by all of our peers, as one of the very best agencies in North Carolina. As a result, we have had an easier time recruiting than most, attracting higher caliber and dedicated men and women to fill our ranks. It also made it easier for our County Board of Commissioners to raise deputies' salaries and allow better pay for higher levels of responsibility and training a few years back.
"Our commitment to accountability, our emphasis on ethical and transparent operations, and our dedication to professional public service and community partnerships inspired many in our community to offer their help and expertise for the public good.

"I have been able to do so because I know that as a result of the effort and commitment of all who served my administration, I leave the ship in far better shape than when I first came aboard. My administration forged a path separate from the 'good ole boy' system and restored the public trust in the time honored and esteemed Office of the Sheriff. We have proven that agency success is guaranteed when leadership sets and holds the highest reasonable standards of ethics, morality, compassion and justice. Our men and women know this and the public we serve expects this. I am proud to know that I, and the personnel that will stay behind to serve the incoming sheriff, have given every ounce of effort we could muster to serve this agency and our community. In so doing, we have left a lighted pathway for success. I wish the incoming sheriff and every member of the Henderson County Sheriff's Office, safety and wisdom in all the uncertain days ahead.
"I have been so honored by God to have been given the time I have served as your sheriff. It was brutal at times, but so humbling and rewarding as well. I am a better man for the friends and leaders I have had the privilege to have worked alongside. My wife, Jennie, sacrificed more than I in this endeavor, yet she never regretted a moment, and stood by me through it all. We are still blessed to be very best friends and only grew closer through this time. Whatever the next mission is, we pray that it will be something we can do together. Thank you all. Stay safe and God bless."