Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Ledford, January 3, 2001. Interview K-0251. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Job performance as campaigning in sheriff's job

Ledford describes some of the political aspects of his job as sheriff, including his efforts to work with the media. He believes that voters increasingly vote for candidates instead of along strict party lines, and that in order to earn votes he needs to work hard to continue improving his job performance.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Ledford, January 3, 2001. Interview K-0251. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

My sense is that you're going to run again. When it comes four years comes or two years, do you sense that the way you campaigned in '98, '97, '98, do you sense that there's going to be a change as-. For example we've got so many new people in this county now who are going to respond differently to you driving up on their place to visit and that kind of thing?
How does then this change in the demographics, kind of change the way a, not just a sheriff, but any kind of politician kind of works among the people.
I believe that the only way you can be beat if you run again if the people have to vote you out. So basically you have been fired. That's my belief now. Sheriff is an unusual position. I have been running for office since the day I have been elected. When I say that is, one thing that I became very much aware of once you get elected and that's even more. I've been watching this presidential thing, and I really hope that they'll do what I have tried to do, and I have said that I am everybody's sheriff in this county. I have done, I have never asked a person who has come up those steps or stopped me in the street or anything their politics. In fact I have probably tried harder to help some of the opposite party even whether I believe they would support me or not just simply because I didn't want them to say I was a bad person or couldn't talk to me. I have maintained an open door policy. And another thing from my training with the Buncombe County Sheriff's Department and my training with the state is I was fortunate to have received a number of schools with dealing with the media. I'm not afraid of the press. Always in Madison County before the sheriff here has been the type of man that has told the press nothing, starved them out. Don't make a comment, God they'll hang you. I don't believe that. I believe that you have to work with the media. They have a job to do. As long as they respect you and you respect them and you have a kind of working relationship there that you know the boundaries of, that you'll be fine. So I think that my next campaign and the biggest thing in this county is name recognition too. I really believe that. I think that was the Ledford name may have been known, but it was known for James Ledford not John Ledford. If you like John Ledford or you don't like John Ledford, you know who he is now and I can accept that. Another thing is you have to think about is that being sheriff of this county is that the more that you do at this job, the more stands you take, the more people you arrest, you're going to make a few people mad. There's no way around it. So you've got to hope that by doing your job, people will say, 'Well good or bad he did his job. He was fair about it.' You've got to hope that there are people. It used to be that the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, the Republicans voted Republican and the Democrats voted Democrat, and Democrats hold about a two to one registration advantage that the Democrats can elect you. That's not the case anymore. I think people now split tickets. I think that they vote more for the man not the parties. The party's not the machine that maybe it once was. It's still strong, but it's not the machine that it once was, and there's the unaffiliated, and I think those are your educated voters. So if you look around my office, you can see all these certificates. I've probably got a hundred more of those. I am told that I am the only sheriff that still goes to the Justice Academy at Salemburg and takes classes. I take them right along with the other deputies. I never tell them who I am. If the instructor doesn't say a word, they don't know who I am. Unless they know me, they don't know that I'm a sheriff from Madison County. So I still am in the learning process. I'm still trying to increase my knowledge. I think that all of that will play into this next election because I think the educated voter is going to say, 'Well, he's worked pretty hard and he's got this and he's got that. We know he'll work, and we know he's got the education. So I think he's the best choice for the job.