I was raised in Laurel Springs by my parents, Phil & Evelyn Howell. Evelyn was raised in Creston on Brushy Fork with family from various parts of the county. She worked for the Ashe County School System, starting at Northwest High School and retiring in the early 2000’s. Phil started his career as a radio personality and moved to education in the early 80’s. As an elementary and high school teacher, he moved quickly into the administration field, becoming an Assistant Principal at Northwest High School and Mountain View Elementary, then became Principal of Piney Creek Elementary & Ashe County High School. He recently retired from the position of Assistant Superintendent of Ashe County Schools. My sister Angie Holman attended Beaver Creek, Appalachian State University and has spent over 25 years teaching. We are a proud Ashe County family!
Growing up in Ashe County, I attended West Jefferson Elementary, Beaver Creek High School and finished at Ashe County High School when the schools were consolidated. During this time, I spent most of my high school years playing sports and participating in J.R.O.T.C. Learning community leadership through J.R.O.T.C., I assisted in over 70 community events. Most events were with the firing squad for military funerals and assisting in communities all across Ashe County. It is with great pride that I was able to help Ashe County in many ways during my youth.
In 2001 I was accepted to NC State University where I joined the NC State University Leopold Wildlife Club. This club provided me with many opportunities to assist communities with wildlife issues. We became a member of the Raleigh Community Program where we assisted communities with cleaning, restoring, and rehabilitation of neighborhoods. It is something that we hardly recognize, but our cities need our plants and resources just as much as our local communities. During my first 2 years at NC State University, I received the opportunity to begin teaching Computer Science lab classes. I soon entered the position of Computer Science Lab Administrator that allowed me to create & administer over 20 employees and 700 students. I left both positions in 2006 for a position with NC State Parks.
Following graduation from NC State University, I began my law enforcement career as an NC State Ranger with the North Carolina State Parks System in the Raleigh area. I attended B.L.E.T. (Basic Law Enforcement Training) at Wake Tech. Community College where I was elected class President.
The experience that NC State Parks afforded me was the opportunity to perform general law enforcement, as well as public educational programming and community presentations. After working a few years at Raven Rock State Park, I moved to Jordan Lake State Park where the position was primarily Law Enforcement. It was here that I was awarded the North Carolina Heroism Award for my assistance in reviving a drowning 2-year-old child in 2008. During this time, I also received the NC Parks Commendation award for serving with a team that saved the life of a suicidal person who jumped from a bridge in 2009.
While in B.L.E.T. I met my wife, Amanda Howell. Amanda was an Agent for the State Bureau of Investigation. Amanda attended UNC-G for her undergraduate studies and received her Doctorate from Wake Forest University in Winston Salem. She worked for the SBI for 5 years before becoming a Professor at Appalachian State University.
It was my love of family that brought me back to Ashe County. I married Amanda in 2008 and now have three beautiful daughters, Emma, Norah, and Adaline. We couldn’t imagine a better community to raise our children.
I began working with the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office in 2010 as a Narcotics Detective. Being a narcotics investigator gave hope to helping the community by removing drugs and traffickers from the streets of Ashe County. It was work that gave meaning to helping youth not see the drugs that surround our communities. During this time I started 2 programs. The first being Operation Medicine Drop, bringing unused narcotics and pills off the streets to be safely destroyed. Over 100,000 dosage units were destroyed each year. I also started our Certified Appalachian State University Internship Program. In conjunction with Appalachian State, we changed the way we handled interns. Students spent a week with every branch of the Sheriff’s Office. Gaining invaluable experience and time with every position from the ground floor to the 3rd. This also was a great training ground for gathering new hires who molded well with the employees of the Sheriff’s Office.
In 2015 I was promoted to Director of Dispatch and in charge of bringing the 911 Communications Division up-to-date, while meeting with various Emergency Management groups to gather feedback on their needs and how the county can better assist them when rendering aid to the citizens of Ashe County. I attended every Fire Association meeting to ensure that our relations with all Fire Departments were the best they could be. During this time, a large project with the state 911 Board was mandated, requiring a backup center that we could maintain in the event of a failure. After many grueling days and hours, we produced a $400,000 project that provided Ashe County with a full backup of our 911 Dispatch Center.
When I was elected to be your Sheriff, I entered this office with the intention of being the Sheriff I had promised during the election. I wanted to create a community-centered atmosphere where our citizens could feel like their Sheriff’s Office is an active participant in the community, not just the faces you see in the worst moments of your life. We began with transparency, our website for the Sheriff’s Office was created for the express purpose of clarity. The press releases that followed and continue to this day are to keep our community informed of major incidents, as well as positive happenings within our community. We continued into community events, and these events are geared toward our children. The most essential outreach is the kind that allows our children to establish a relationship with our office. Too often, our children have been exposed to negative connotations about law enforcement. We hoped to show them that we care and are here for them when they need us. We did this by establishing community events such as Deputy 4 a Day, a continuation of the Shop with a Cop program, and Rooftop Cops, to name a few. We have also partnered with Ashe County Schools to grow the Deputy 4 a Day program into today’s Ashe Back to School Blast, reaching thousands of our community just this past summer. I intend to continue and build on these programs as they have proved to be necessary to everyone involved.
My approach to the law enforcement aspect of the Sheriff’s Office has been no different. I came in with the intent to accomplish the goals promised during the election. We have made great strides regarding those goals beginning with the addition of 4 deputies to establish a more significant presence in the community through the patrol. This added an additional deputy to each patrol shift and widened the coverage area on an average shift. More manpower also significantly reduced response times for our citizens. These four deputies came at a reduced cost to the taxpayer by partially funding the positions with a grant. We have established a SWAT team to resolve dangerous and tense situations peacefully. I have encouraged my staff to take every specialized training to strive for excellence in our law enforcement duties. These occupational education opportunities led to several of our law enforcement, detention, and staff members becoming instructors themselves to better equip our professionals, in-house, with the tools they need to excel in service. Officer safety has been a large focus in our growth, working with families of our deputies to attain items such as ballistic shields and helmets to ensure the tools are readily available for each deputy to protect themselves and come home to our loved ones. I believe the drive for excellence in law enforcement is ongoing; serving our community and exceeding what is expected of our office is a work that can never be passive; this is why the establishment of community programs and equipping our staff with the tools they need to succeed will be a never-ending push.