With midterm elections comes a new sheriff for Pitt County, and the man currently in office, Sheriff Neil Elks, is hoping to leave a lasting legacy after 38 years of service.
“I’m a third generation law enforcement officer. My granddaddy was a policeman in a small town,” said Elks. “I never knew him, but my dad was actually my inspiration to want to be in law enforcement. My dad was a Greenville police officer.”
It was a career path Elks said he wanted since he was a young boy.
“I knew I really wanted to do what my dad did,” said Elks. “I thought it was the coolest thing to be a police officer. They were highly respected and men of integrity, and I just thought that was what I really wanted to do.”
He said at age 12 he became one of the first members of the Greenville Police Cadet Program, which instilled in him values he’d carry throughout the rest of his life.
“Back then, they wouldn’t let you work for the same agency, so knowing my dad was a police officer, I knew I had to go somewhere else,” said Elks. “So my second choice was the Sheriff’s Office.”
At age 18, right out of high school, he asked Sheriff Tyson for a job.
“I wore his door out, beatin’ on his door trying to get him to hire me – kept telling me I was too young,” said Elks. “‘You’re too young for that job; you look like a kid,’ is what he would tell me.”
He said Tyson finally called him for an interview and gave him a job as a dispatcher.
Three years later at age 21, he was finally sworn in as a deputy.
“I love helping people,” Elks said. “I love helping people find closure to a crime they’ve been involved in.”
He told 9OYS about the time he was able to help a mom whose daughter had just been murdered find some peace.
“Finding that stuff and carrying it to that mom and watching her face as I put her daughter’s jewelry, it was priceless,” Elks said. “It just meant so much to her and that kind of rewards you. You love being a law enforcement officer.”
Sheriff Elks said going into retirement will be bittersweet, but he is confident in leaving things in the hands of longtime law enforcement member, Paula Dance.
“I would advise her to remind herself every day her oath of office, what she swears to do, and to uphold all the laws and treat everybody fair,” Elks said. “I’ve lost a lot of friends being the sheriff. It’s because whatever is right is what you need to.”
Sheriff Elks told 9OYS he wants everyone in the office to remember him as a leader and to be kind to everyone. He said you never know who is watching.
Sheriff Elks is set to retire in December.