JEFFERSON — As far as law enforcement goes, Sheriff James Williams has seen it all.
From narrowly escaping a harrowing helicopter crash and leading the way in countless manhunts in the dead of night to helping solve some of Ashe County’s most notorious crimes and missing person cases, Williams has seen a little bit of everything in four decades in law enforcement.
But after 44 years of serving and protecting the citizens he was sworn to protect, Williams will hang his badge and holster up for the last time on Dec. 31 when he officially walks away from the Ashe County Sheriff’s office.
Williams announced his retirement to the board of commissioners Monday morning.
His department’s next highest ranking officer, Bucky Absher, will ascend to the role of sheriff until the commissioners make an official appointment for the office.
Williams was elected to his post in 2006 and ran unopposed in 2010, attesting to the county’s overall confidence in him.
He becomes the fifth sheriff statewide to step down from the county’s highest elected office midterm.
In reading his retirement letter to the board, Williams noted it has been a “great honor” to serve the people of the county “especially rewarding to serve citizens as sheriff for the past 10 years.”
Williams cited the growing stress of the job and the current status of the sheriff office in his reasoning for retiring from his post.
“I’m proud it has grown to the professional level it is today,” said Williams. “I’m blessed to have a group of hard working qualified individuals working there now.”
His decision didn’t come easy.
“The stress of the job was beginning to take its toll,” he said. “The thing about being sheriff is there isn’t any relief from it. The phone rings at home… The phone even rings at the beach. It doesn’t matter where you are at.”
Williams also noted the missed birthdays and anniversaries the job has cost him over the years.
“It’s time for me to make up for a little bit of that the best I can,” he said.
Nearly the entirety of Williams’ adult life has been steeped in law enforcement. Two days after his wedding, Williams started at the West Jefferson Police Department thus beginning a storied career in law enforcement.
“I often joke that I’ve had the same job and the same wife and they’ve both about killed me after 44 years,” Williams told the board with a smile as he sat back down.