ERWIN — The recent indictment of Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris on 10 felony charges has surely provided plenty of fodder for his opponents, but the sheriff also has a number of supporters, many of whom made their presence known Monday.
A large group of these supporters gathered in front of the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department late Monday afternoon just prior to the evening’s meeting of the Unicoi County Commission, at which the commission was expected to discuss options and possibilities in the matter involving Harris.
Several of the those gathered to show their support of Harris held signs that read “Re-Elect Sheriff David Kent Harris” and “I Support Kent Harris.” Harris himself was in the middle of the crowd, greeting well-wishers as they arrived.
Unicoi County resident Starlet Fricker joined others on the sidewalk in front of the UCSD, greeting passing motorists with signs imploring them to support their sheriff. Fricker said she has spoken with Harris several times and vehemently disagrees with the charges against him.
“He does so much for this community,” she said. “He’s done more than, I believe, any sheriff has ever done. He wouldn’t have been re-elected numerous times if he hadn’t have done such a wonderful job.”
Unicoi County Heritage Museum curator Martha Erwin said the recently opened Clinchfield Railroad Museum would never have come to fruition without Harris’ assistance.
“He has helped our museum,” Erwin said. “We wouldn’t have the railroad museum, we wouldn’t have the front porch that they put on in May. He has done everything.”
Washington County resident and Harris supporter Maxie English owns a business in Unicoi County. She said she feels completely safe operating her business in the county due to Harris’ leadership and is familiar with Harris’ family, whom she referred to as “honest and good Americans.”
“He’s certainly taken care of the older citizens in Unicoi County,” English said, “and this business about ousting him, he’s sheriff until he’s proven guilty. I pray he won’t be that.”
Harris has also seen support outside of Monday’s gathering. Several signs reading “Support Sheriff Harris” began popping up on several lawns across the county following the sheriff’s Oct. 14 indictment on 10 felony charges. A Facebook page titled “Citizens in Support of Sheriff Kent Harris” had nearly 500 “likes” as of Monday evening. Another group of citizens has started a petition to garner signatures in support of Harris.
Unicoi County resident Judy Moss parked her vehicle in front of the UCSD. On the windshield was a sign urging support of Harris.
“I haven’t talked to anyone that’s against him,” Moss said of Harris. “He’s a people person and he’s always liked people. He’s good to everybody.”