Sheriffs’ electoral battles in Western North Carolina are often heated but rarely lead to changes in who keeps control of the offices.

When the dust settled last night, five of the sheriffs in North Carolina’s 18 westernmost counties had won uncontested victories and only three counties had elected a new sheriff. And in one that did, new blood was already a foregone conclusion, because the incumbent didn’t run for re-election.

Still, two of those counties saw potentially significant shifts, with rare upsets.

Meet the new bosses

In North Carolina as in many states, the office of sheriff is one of the most powerful positions in county government, while races to win it often take place under the public’s radar.

Others bubble up, though.

In Cherokee County, Republican Derrick Palmer, a former deputy who has recently served as assistant director of the county’s school resource officers, defeated Keith Lovin, a Democrat who has been sheriff for 12 years. Palmer garnered 56 percent of the vote while Lovin got 44 percent.

Palmer used to work for Lovin, and the contest between the two veteran lawmen proved especially touchy at times. As Carolina Public Press reported during the campaign, for example, a slew of allegations flew about how both Lovin and Palmer handled evidence and information relating to an interagency drug task force that was investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation.

In Graham County, Democratic incumbent Mickey Anderson, who had been sheriff since 2010, took an abrupt fall from Republican Danny Millsaps, who won 59 percent of the vote versus Anderson’s 41 percent.

The only other new sheriff in WNC will be Democrat Chip Hall, who’s presently the chief deputy in Jackson County, where Democratic Sheriff Jimmy Ashe is stepping down. Hall defeated his Republican challenger, Chris Lambert, by netting 64 percent of the vote.

The sheriffs’ overall party affiliations will soon be leaning a bit more to the right.

Until yesterday’s election, 10 of WNC’s sheriffs were Republicans and eight were Democrats. Soon, 12 will be Republicans and six will be Democrats.

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Jon Elliston is the lead contributing open government reporter at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at

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