Controversial sheriff returns to Portsmouth

Rain Developing Near Stationary Fron

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — He was sheriff of Portsmouth for 24 years before being caught intoxicated behind the wheel and moving to Florida. So why is Gary Waters back in Hampton Roads?

In an exclusive interview with, the former sheriff said he’s a Portsmouth resident again.

“I love Portsmouth,” Waters said while his dog Diamond barked behind his front door. But that doesn’t mean it’s always been a place of perfect memories. “I’ve had a tough go,” he said.

In December 2003, Waters was pulled over by Portsmouth Police for going 57 mph in a 35 mph zone. He smelled of alcohol, admitted to drinking, but was never given any sobriety checks. He made a call to the Assistant Chief of Police and eventually was allowed to be given a ride home by one of his deputies.

“It was a low. I had a drinking problem, and I don’t have it anymore,” he said. “That’s almost 10 years ago, and I want to move forward in my life, and I have a lot of talent to offer.”

Waters eventually pleaded guilty to DUI, lost the democratic nomination to run again, and lost as a write-in candidate. Then he moved to Florida and got another DUI. Waters said he hit rock bottom and had to go through extensive alcohol rehab. Now he’s come home to Portsmouth to be closer to his daughter and two grandsons.

“I want to bond with them a bit, and be a good Grandpa,” Waters said.

But that’s not all — Waters said he’s running for City Council in the November elections.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people, a lot of them support my efforts,” he said. “I feel like I have a lot of talent to offer a city. I probably know more about budgets than anyone in the city.”

Waters knows he has heavy baggage, but also believes in second chances: “There are three seats coming up in November, and I am just asking the citizens to support me for one of the seats.”

It will be a crowded field with three candidates, including two incumbents already in the race.

“Maybe one or two negatives from people I’ve met, but other than that, everyone is positive,” he said. “‘Hey,’ every place I go people say ‘Hey, Sheriff! Good to have you back in the city of Portsmouth.'”

Gary Waters campaign for City Council is a long shot. He knows that, but he also knows running for this council seat can’t be anymore difficult than what he’s already been through.

Election day is November 4, and candidates in Portsmouth have until June 10 to file qualified signatures. Waters needs 125 signatures to qualify to be a candidate.

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