Republican sheriff backs Dem deputy

Chan Bryant has been tapped by Albemarle Sheriff Chip Harding to succeed him as sheriff.

Staff photo Chan Bryant has been tapped by Albemarle Sheriff Chip Harding to succeed him as sheriff. Staff photo

Albemarle Chief Deputy Chan Bryant got an unusual endorsement when she announced her run for sheriff as a Democrat January 30. Her boss, Republican Sheriff Chip Harding, introduced her and said that in his nearly 50 years of service in the justice system, she was in the top 5 percent of law enforcement supervisors with whom he’s worked.

And while Bryant’s candidacy is historic—she’s the first female to run for sheriff since the office was founded in 1745—Harding, who is not seeking reelection, says that’s not why he’s supporting her.

“I am endorsing Chan because she has done an outstanding job in every position she has been in,” he says.

Bryant, 49, wanted to be in law enforcement since she was a teen in Greene County. After stints as a county reserve officer, an EMT, a Madison deputy and a Scottsville patrol officer, she started full-time in the Albemarle sheriff’s office in 2006. “I have worked my way up the chain of command,” and worked closely with the sheriff in every department, she says.

She’d like to bring back the DARE program in schools. While some question the effectiveness of the once-pervasive Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, Bryant says it could be about more than drugs, and address peer pressure, bullying, and good decision-making.

She also envisions a safety program for seniors, because the department gets phone calls from people from out of state asking that deputies check up on elderly relatives.

Bryant leads the office’s 100-member search and rescue team, and she is commander of the reserves.

Around 10 deputies were present for her announcement, and Harding said the office’s full-time staff voted her “deputy of the year” for her efforts in improving the agency. The Elks Club also named her central Virginia law enforcement officer of the year.

Sheriff Chip Harding says Chan Bryant is one of the top cops he’s ever worked with. staff photo

Bryant says nothing makes her happier than hearing her colleagues say, “I love my job.”

She praises Harding’s mentoring, and says he encouraged her to run.

“I don’t look at it as being the first female,” she says. “It’s about being the most capable.”

Lieutenant Mike Wagner with the Albemarle County Police Department says he’s also a candidate in the November 5 election, but is not certain whether he will run as a Republican.