Ashland Fortune will retire at the end of 2019 after more than half a century as a police officer, including 20 years as Louisa County sheriff.
Major Donald Lowe, 64, who has worked as Fortune’s second-in-command since the sheriff was first elected in 1999, said he will run to succeed him in the November election.
Fortune, who will turn 80 in July, plans to support Lowe’s campaign.
The sheriff was the first African American elected to that office in Louisa County, and one of the few black police officers in Virginia when the town of Louisa hired him in 1964. He served as the town’s police chief from the 1960s until he succeeded Henry Kennon, who had been sheriff for 36 years.
Though he won by just eight votes in 1999, Fortune has secured convincing victories in elections since then. In the most recent race, held in 2015, Fortune defeated Mike Silberman with 59 percent of the vote.
Since Fortune took office, the sheriff’s office has grown from 27 employees to almost 90, keeping pace with a population increase of 10,000 and a growing commercial base at Zion Crossroads. In 1999, the department had one detective to investigate cases — it now has six.
As the agency grew, Fortune gave Lowe a broad role in managing operations. He also asked Lowe to be liaison to the media, since, in Lowe’s words, the sheriff is “camera-shy.” The two men keep in constant communication.
“We think a lot alike, we do. If someone asks both of us a question, we’re usually going to give the same answer, without one knowing what the other is going to say,” Lowe said. “He lets me do basically what I think needs to be done. Of course, everything gets run by him, just to be on the safe side. He lets me run the department as much as I can. He’s like a father figure — he trusts you, but he’s going to pull you if you’re going down the wrong track.”
Fortune made numerous changes to the way the sheriff’s office was managed after his first election.
This is a partial article. Read the full story in The Central Virginian’s Jan. 10, 2019 issue.
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