In elections, it often comes down to name recognition, and former Charlottesville police lieutenant Ronnie Roberts has it. The Albemarle native spent most of his 44-year career in law enforcement working for the city police department, where he rose through the ranks and served as a well-known spokesman.
Roberts announced his candidacy for Albemarle sheriff April 4 in front of the Albemarle courthouse with several dozen supporters present. His old boss, former Charlottesville police chief Tim Longo, introduced Roberts as a man of “honor, dignity, and commitment” with an “unwavering moral compass.”
Also present were several retired top cops, including former city chief Buddy Rittenhouse and former Albemarle sheriff Ed Robb. Not present was Roberts’ former CPD colleague and current Albemarle sheriff, Chip Harding, who has endorsed Chief Deputy Chan Bryant to succeed him.
Roberts, 64, retired from the Charlottesville Police Department in 2014, and took on the job of Louisa chief of police.
He recalled his walks as a lad in Charlottesville past parked Virginia State Police cars. The troopers showed him the inside of their patrol cars. “That walk stayed in my mind,” he said, and influenced his decision to go into law enforcement.
It also brought an awareness of the importance of community policing. “I came to realize I could relate to people,” he said.
“Putting community first” is the theme of his campaign. “I want to take the Albemarle Sheriff’s Office to the next level as a nationally accredited sheriff’s office,” of which there are only four in Virginia, he said.
He also wants to focus on domestic violence, mental health reform, gang activity, and elder abuse. The sheriff’s office is primarily responsible for court security and prisoner transport.
Roberts said he’d been asked by business leaders and county residents to join the race, which has three other candidates: Dems Bryant and Patrick Estes, a UVA football and NFL alum, who will face off in the June 11 primary, and possibly Republican Mike Wagner, a lieutenant with Albemarle police who has filed but has not formally announced a campaign.
Roberts is running as an independent.