‘I’m not going anywhere’: Staunton Sheriff seeks re-election
By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
STAUNTON — If Staunton Sheriff Matt Robertson had not had his car broken into while he was pre-med at Bridgewater College in 1989, he may never have gone into law enforcement.
Robertson, a 1988 graduate of Robert E. Lee High School, was born and raised in the Queen City.
“I’ve had a good career here,” said Robertson. “I’m not going anywhere.”
After high school, he pursued pre-med until the day his car was broken into and the police officer who took his report encouraged him to do a ride along.
“So, I did ride along, and said: ‘This is what I’m going to do,”” Robertson said.
He served as a deputy for the Staunton Sheriff’s Office from 1992 to April 1996, then joined Staunton Police Department. When he left Staunton PD in August 2000, he returned to the Staunton Sheriff’s Office.
After becoming chief deputy of Staunton Sheriff’s Office in 2016, Robertson became acting Sheriff in July when the current Sheriff was injured and could not perform his duties.
Robertson was elected Sheriff in November 2017.
“It’s a little different now [in law enforcement], but I still enjoy getting up every morning,” Robertson said.
Robertson and his wife, Denise, live in Staunton. Her son, Aaron, is a police officer at UVA.
“It’s been a busy few years, but I’m not done yet,” Robertson said.
If re-elected, Robertson would like to work on getting the Sheriff’s Office accreditation, which, he said, takes years to accomplish and requires standards by which the office upholds and maintains.
“I’ve got the best group of people working for me now,” he said of working toward accreditation.
He also would like to get all of his staff law enforcement certified. Only two staff members are not yet certified.
“We’re dealing with the same people Staunton Police Department does. The more training you have, the better,” Robertson said.
The Sheriff’s Office mostly handles civil process, prisoner transport and court security.
Robertson said in the last three and a half years, he has applied for grant funding and obtained donations that saved taxpayers $130,000 to pay for a new camera system in the city of Staunton’s courthouse. If re-elected, he would like to continue saving taxpayers money by obtaining grant funding and donations when possible.
Community engagement is important to Robertson.
“A lot of people didn’t know we had a sheriff’s office [in Staunton when he became sheriff]. They thought we were Augusta County [Sheriff’s Office deputies],” Robertson said of repainting patrol cars and changing the uniforms of his staff so they would be better recognized as Staunton law enforcement officers.
He said he also has made sure the office’s K-9 program was involved with local schools.
“One of my goals is to reach kids,” he said, and fortunately Staunton is an area where a lot of people still respect law enforcement. He wants his office to build trust with Staunton students “so, hopefully, they can carry that with them.”
When the office’s K-9 Cara was injured and died in December while on duty assisting the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office, Robertson said he received calls from parents whose children had met her in their schools and were grief-stricken over her death.
The office is currently training a new K-9, and Robertson said he asked the Staunton Superintendent of Schools to survey Staunton elementary students for a name.
“Let them feel like she’s a part of them. So they picked [the name] Liberty,” Robertson said.
During his career as a police officer, Robertson said he has always been concerned about the misuse of opioids and prescription medications in the community. He began a prescription take-back program to curb that misuse, because he has seen members of the community become addicted, youth exercise curiosity about drugs, and seen them lose everything because of an addiction, including their lives.
Robertson said he will increase training opportunities for his staff to enable them to stay up-to-date on the latest laws and information.
“Training is paramount in this day and time. If you don’t have training, you’re behind the status quo,” Robertson said.