PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — It was a big upset Tuesday night when three-term Sheriff Bill Watson lost to political newcomer Michael Moore.
Moore garnered 48 percent of the vote to Watson’s 42 percent.
There were only a little more than 1,200 votes separating them.
Moore is a married father of two adult daughters and has an extensive law enforcement background. He has worked as a state trooper, DEA agent and retired as an ATF supervisor.
He’ll bring that experience with him as sheriff in the city where he grew up.
The job as sheriff is one Moore wanted to for a long time.
During his interview with 10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings Moore said, “It’s a lot to take in. It was a long campaign season. It seemed like it went on for a year or two but it was just a few months.” He continued, “It’s a great feeling. I think any time that citizens have entrusted this position to anyone, so I feel good about that.”
Moore said he wasn’t surprised by the win because when he ran for sheriff four years ago, he only lost by 361 votes.
10 On Your Side learned Moore was a finalist for the Portsmouth Chief of Police position.
Now he’s ready to move forward.
“I look forward to working for the people and that’s everyone, even the people who did not support me. I’m not concerned about that. I’m concerned about what we can do to move forward, to really kind of unite the citizens,” Moore said.
Moore said his priorities include building on the relationship between the city police and his office.
“If you pool resources, man-power, I think you can have a dramatic effect on the safety in our communities,” Moore explained.
He wants to see the Drug Abuse Resistance Education or DARE program back in schools and he plans to keep his campaign promises of re instituting the GED program in the jail and helping inmates get identifications.
“It’s not my job as the sheriff to say innocent or guilty. It is to preserve and make sure that the inmates are taken care of and treated humanely,” Moore said.
Current Sheriff Bill Watson wasn’t available for an on camera interview but told Cummings by phone, “I’m good with it. I lost fair. Michael was a gentleman.” He said, “I can walk out with my head high. I worked for the people and the people have spoken.”
Watson continued, “The only thing I’m concerned with is what’s going to happen to my employees.”
That comment was directed to the new sheriff.
“It would be counterproductive to walk in on day one, or the very first week or few weeks, and do a mass firing. That has never been a plan. I don’t plan on doing that,” Moore said. “I want the employees to get to know me. I want to get an opportunity to get to know the employees and we’ll go from there. The only people that will lose their job is once that evaluation period is over if you’re not doing your job. That’s it. [I] have no thoughts on going in and firing people,” Moore said.
Watson told Cummings that he’s also concerned about Moore keeping the programs that he’s been building for 12 years.
Moore said he does plan to keep the current programs in place and enhance them. “I want to make sure that those seniors and disabled and disadvantaged citizens who deserve to have it and desire to have those services actually get those services,” Moore said.
Michael Moore’s swearing-in will be held in January.