Harnett Sheriff Resigns Suddenly

Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins resigned his position Monday night in a shocking public announcement at the regular meeting of the Harnett County Board of Commissioners.

Sheriff Rollins told the board he is leaving his position for personal reasons which were not released. He said he came to the decision approximately one year ago. It became effective at 5 p.m. Monday.

The former sheriff officially told the board about his intentions at a February closed session of the board.

“I have been in law enforcement for 40 years but the last 13 that I have served as sheriff of Harnett County have been the most rewarding of my career,” Sheriff Rollins said.

(Left to right) Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins resigned suddenly on Monday. He has been replaced by Major Wayne Coates who was sworn in Tuesday afternoon. Photo courtesy The Daily Record
(Left to right) Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins resigned suddenly on Monday. He has been replaced by Major Wayne Coates who was sworn in Tuesday afternoon. Photo courtesy The Daily Record

Sheriff Rollins first won his position in 2002 when he defeated incumbent Larry Knott. Four years later he beat popular former Major Steve West in one of the most  polarizing elections in recent memory and was re-elected again in both 2010 and 2014. He thanked the people of the county in his remarks.

“The only thing I can really say is thank you to all the citizens of Harnett County who allowed me to serve in this position,” Sheriff Rollins said.

He said his decision had nothing to do with a pending investigation of one of his officers in the shooting death of a man in the Anderson Creek community last year.

The case continues to be under investigation. District Attorney Vernon Stewart has said he will make a determination about whether charges will be filed.

“This is a personal decision that I think is best for my family,” Sheriff Rollins said. “It has nothing to do with anything going on at the sheriff’s department at the current time.”

In his resignation letter Sheriff Rollins wrote, “I think all the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office staff for their dedication to their jobs and their support of my efforts as sheriff. May God bless this great nation, this great county, the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office who proudly serve and protect the citizens of Harnett.”

The board of commissioners immediately named Major Wayne Coats as Sheriff Rollins’ replacement. He will be sworn in during ceremonies today at 2 p.m. in Lillington.

Sheriff Coats said he is ready for the job. “I know what I have to do, I just have a new title now,” Sheriff Coats said. “I am a humble and appreciative man.”

“We will never replace the sheriff, and we thank him for all he has done for all of us,” Sheriff Coats said.

Commissioners were required by state law to appoint the sheriff who will now serve until the current term expires. There will be an election for a full term in November of 2018.

Majors Gary McNeill and Jeff Huber were also considered for the post. All three majors were on hand for the announcement.  “There are no losers in this,” Sheriff Coats said. “We are all winners with the staff we have at the sheriff’s department.”

Commissioners Chairman Jim Burgin said the decision to hire Sheriff Coats was based on his 22 years of service to the sheriff’s office. That experience included service at Campbell University and as a deputy in the county. He spent two years with Dunn Police.

Commissioner Gordon Springle personally thanked Commissioner Barbara McKoy for coming up with the plan to install Sheriff Coats. Commissioner McKoy made the motion to hire Sheriff Coats.

Mr. Burgin said the decision was made based on the board’s desire to maintain continuity in the department and to select a qualified person to finish Sheriff Rollins term.  The chairman mentioned both men in his remarks.

“We look forward to working with Sheriff Coats and we thank Sheriff Rollins for all he did for the county,” Mr. Burgin said. Story courtesy The Daily Record