Atkinson honored as state’s top sheriff


Edgecombe County Sheriff Clee Atkinson


Staff Writer

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Edgecombe County Sheriff Clee Atkinson was honored Friday night at the MADD Awards of Excellence Banquet in Cary as the 2018 North Carolina Sheriff of the Year.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has as its goal to “work tirelessly to support victims at no charge, advocate for stronger laws and create a future of No More Victims,” according to its website.

“I am truly thankful and honored that I was nominated for such a prestigious and statewide award. It just lets me know that the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office is being observed statewide for all of our hard work in law enforcement,” Atkinson said in an interview on Monday.

Atkinson said he would like to thank Chief Jesse Webb of the Tarboro Police Department for his nomination for the award.

In his nomination statement, Webb stressed Atkinson’s accomplishments over the past two years.

“Since his recent appointment and subsequent election to the position of sheriff, Cleveland (Clee) Atkinson has ushered in dramatic and positive change for the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office. First introducing a new philosophy based upon Professionalism-Respect-Integrity-Compassion-Excellence (PRICE), Sheriff Atkinson has made it a priority to develop an atmosphere of teamwork within the agency while developing strong partnerships with other agencies throughout the region,” Webb said.

In relation to Atkinson’s efforts to support the mission of MADD, Webb noted that Atkinson served as a member of the State Highway Patrol before becoming Edgecombe County’s chief law enforcement officer.

“As such, he clearly understands the importance and relevance of a strategic approach toward traffic enforcement, especially as it relates to teen drivers. As part of this mission, Sheriff Atkinson has recently joined forces with the Tarboro Police Department creating a Traffic Safety Enforcement Initiative Task Force through the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program. Such a venture is undoubtedly a proactive approach towards educating our youth and providing safe roadways for the motoring public,” Webb said in his nomination statement.

Webb also noted the efforts Atkinson and his deputies have made at area high schools to promote safety.

“These events include presentations regarding seat belt safety and distracted driving, but the issue of impaired driving always takes precedence. This initiative incorporates the Seat Belt Convincer, BAT Mobile, Fatal Vision Goggles and a golf cart course to name just some of the exercises. Sheriff Atkinson has even assisted with a demonstration of the Seat Belt Convincer,” Webb said.

Since Atkinson’s appointment in 2017, there has been a 164 percent increase in participation in traffic safety activities and events related to the Governor’s Highway Safety Program and a 134 percent increase in enforcement efforts during such initiatives, Webb said.

“As the Region 4 Law Enforcement Liaison for the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program, I can certainly attest to the fact that my last quarterly review of all activities within my region confirmed that the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office engages in more overall activities than any other agency. In other words, out of nine counties and over 40 law enforcement organizations that I oversee, the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office is conducting and participating in more events, both educational and enforcement, than any other agency.” Webb said.

However, Atkinson said the award truly belongs to the staff members who serve under him.

“As sheriff of the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office, I am only as good as my team of men and women,” Atkinson said. “As a leader, I believe that you have to have confidence in your team. There are times that I delegate difficult tasks that I know my team members are capable of completing. I believe in them.”