A Madison Heights resident, who serves as a Lynchburg Sheriff’s Office deputy and pastor, formally announced his candidacy for Amherst County sheriff Monday.
George Lee, lead pastor of Grace Baptist Church, has worked 15 years for the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office and is among three former Amherst sheriff’s deputies challenging Sheriff E.W. Viar for the county’s top law enforcement position in the Nov. 5 election.
Luciano Freitas, who works for the Liberty University Police Department; and Noel De Palma, who was fired in mid-March after informing Viar of his intent to seek the office, are running against Viar, who is seeking a second term.
Lee, 47, said he has 26 years combined experience in public service as a sergeant in the Army National Guard, a narcotics investigator, a special federal officer with the Central Virginia Drug Task Force, a DARE officer and a school resource officer, among other roles. His experience and leadership have prepared him for modern-day law enforcement challenges, he said.
“I feel a highly professional and responsive law enforcement agency is crucial to a relationship of trust and confidence between the Sheriff’s Office and the businesses and citizens it serves,” Lee said in a news release. “I recognize that a positive work environment is a strong element in the retention of certified and experienced law enforcement talent and my mission is to create an environment to attract and retain such talent to fill vacancies and reduce turnover.”
Viar, Freitas and Lee are running as independents. De Palma has secured the Republican nomination.
Lee said his background makes him keenly aware of the drug epidemic and related crimes. He believes a higher level of awareness on such issues is needed to reduce danger for businesses and residents, he said.
“In keeping with the war on drugs, I believe in a strong connection with our youth and senior citizens and will strive to improve our drug resistance and school safety programs and improve safety and security awareness training for our seniors,” Lee said.
A graduate of Liberty University with a bachelor’s degree in religion and a master’s in pastoral ministry, Lee said he cares deeply for the success of local businesses and the safety and security of county residents. Working with people is his passion, he added.
“My experiences and training have taught me how the work should be done and how to lead it professionally and effectively,” Lee said.
Lee filed and qualified to run by the June 11 deadline, according to the Amherst County Registrar’s Office.
In his career with the Amherst sheriff’s office, Lee served as a school resource officer at Amherst County High School, Monelison Middle School and the Amherst Education Center. He said he moved to Amherst County this past spring to run for sheriff and has longtime familial and church ties to the county. He said he plans to move his family to Amherst soon.
“I have been bonded and invested in Amherst County since childhood,” Lee said.
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.