Local News

Wake Sheriff-Elect Announces Changes In Administration

Posted November 25, 2002

— Wake County Sheriff-elect Donnie Harrison has wasted no time preparing to take over the reins.

On Monday, Harrison announced several staff changes for his administration. Frank Gunter, administrator of the Johnston County Detention Center, will take over the Wake County Jail. Gunter said his first priority is to look at overcrowding.

"First is to find out the extent of the problem and then find out what possible solutions there might be," he said.

There are 514 employees in the sheriff's office. Harrison said that over the first 120 days of his term, he will evaluate the employees with the help of his new chief of staff, Larry Wood, a former sergeant in the Highway Patrol.

"It's overwhelming," Wood said. "All of this is overwhelming, but I feel like we have a team that can accomplish that goal."

Ronnie Stewart, Harrison's new director of operations, had retired from the Wake County Sheriff's Office. He said Harrison will set out clear criteria for hiring and promoting unlike his predecessor John Baker.

"People within the department didn't know what they had to do to be promoted. No one knew his criteria. It's my personal opinion that it caused some morale problems," he said.

Harrison said he has no plans to clean house.

"They may be moved around," he said of employees in his office. "Some of them will be moved around. Some of them know they're going to be moved around, but they will have the opportunity to stay if they wish.

"I'm going to be a working sheriff, a hands-on sheriff. I'm going to be out in the field," Harrison said.

Besides jail overcrowding, Harrison's big issues are reducing response time, creating a team to deal with school emergencies, expanding the canine unit and creating a program to check on senior citizens.


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