PITTSBORO — Tracy Kelly quietly made history in February when she was promoted to chief deputy in the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

Although becoming a chief deputy is an impressive step in the career of any law enforcement professional, Kelly is unique in that she is the first woman to hold the position and the highest ranked woman in the office. of Chatham County Sheriff has seen for over 100 years.

Only Sheriff Mary Myrtle Siler, North Carolina’s first female state sheriff, rose to a higher rank when she was appointed sheriff of Chatham County in 1920.

“It’s amazing to reach this milestone. It’s always been my goal to get to this level, and it took a lot of determination and focus to get there,” said Kelly, a Pittsboro resident. “I haven’t been blessed with a female role model during my career in law enforcement, so at times I had to navigate my way. I’ve always sought to improve myself through education, professional certifications or positions of increasing responsibility, and I am honored to take this next step.

“Tracy Kelly was named chief deputy because she is the right person for the job and has a long history of effective leadership,” Chatham County Sheriff Mike Roberson said. “She earned each promotion through demonstrated leadership, unwavering commitment and years of great personal sacrifice. She has always proven to be shrewd, decisive and capable of completing any task given to her. I am exceptionally proud of her and look forward to seeing her flourish in this new role.

During his nearly 20-year career in the sheriff’s office, Kelly served at every rank, breaking down barriers at every step along the way; she made history in 2018 when she became the first woman in agency history to reach the rank of major.

On challenging the status quo, Kelly says she hopes to inspire others to do the same.

“For anyone with big ambitions, don’t let fear hold you back… Set your goals high and stay committed to your dreams. Hard work pays off!” she said. “I may be the first female chief deputy in the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, but I hope I’m not the last.”

Kelly attributes his resilience as a leader to his willingness to grow and adapt to changing circumstances. The key, she says, is to learn from your failures as well as your successes along the way.

“Each position has challenged me and helped me grow in different ways as a law enforcement professional and leader,” Kelly said. “Every experience I’ve had, positive or negative, has taught me something valuable that I can take with me. I’ve never had two days exactly the same, and that’s part of the reason I was drawn to law enforcement as a career field.

Kelly shares that she was first drawn to the idea of ​​serving her community while growing up in McDowell County in western North Carolina. She began her journey with the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office before moving to Chatham in 1994. After the move, she took a job with the Carrboro Police Department and was later invited to join the Sheriff’s Office family of Chatham County in 2002.

Kelly says she remains extremely grateful to the many mentors who have inspired and guided her as she has gained knowledge and experience over her 28 years in the profession. She hopes to be able to do the same for the next generation of officers and serve as a role model for those around her.

“I want to be remembered for helping employees achieve their goals, maintaining good relationships with other departments and offices, and having a positive impact on the residents we serve,” says Kelly. “It’s not specifically that I want to be remembered…but rather the impact of my efforts to make the Sheriff’s Office the best it can be for the public and the employees who work here.”

One of the ways Kelly advocates on behalf of employees is by being a strong supporter of mental health and wellness services for law enforcement professionals.

“Mental health awareness is such an important area and is especially important in law enforcement,” she said. “It would be great to see more mental health professionals specializing in treating first responders. The stress in this job can be overwhelming, and it helps to have access to resources and mental health professionals who understand the specific stressors that first responders face.

Sheriff’s Office Lt. Sara Pack said staff members have a deep respect and admiration for Kelly because of her reputation for honesty, good judgment and getting results.

“Tracy Kelly is incredibly driven, but always puts the well-being of others before her own. She is never too busy to check on staff members or lend an ear when they need someone to talk to,” Pack said “Tracy is direct, dependable and genuinely compassionate when staff members are having personal or professional difficulties. She picks people up when they fall.”

Kelly agrees that the most valuable thing leaders can do is make themselves available to their team.

“Leaders should also be a resource for employees. It’s important to show your staff that they can talk to you and feel heard and supported,” she said. “While I am proud and delighted to be appointed Deputy Chief, I also feel an increased sense of responsibility to care for our staff. I will continue to lead by example and support employees to the best of my abilities.

Retired Sheriff Richard Webster, who noticed Kelly’s superior work ethic while still working for the Carrboro Police Department, called her “an awesome, professional, hard-working police officer and friend. dear”.

“She took a huge leap of faith to join the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office all those years ago, but she’s made the agency a better place since the day she walked through the door,” said Webster. “The day I heard she was made chef, I smiled and thought, ‘Bravo! Well deserved!’…She’s a great role model, and I couldn’t be happier for her. .

Colleagues say Kelly is an impressive example for law enforcement professionals far beyond the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office. She holds a Masters in Administration of Justice, a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice, an Associate’s Degree in Basic Law Enforcement Training and Advanced Certificates in Law Enforcement from Standards Commissions. education and training for sheriffs and criminal justice. Kelly has won a Meritorious Achievement Award, numerous Certificates of Appreciation, and the Sheriff’s Office Community Service Award for her volunteerism to benefit the residents of Chatham County.

Outside of the office, Kelly serves as a specialty driving instructor for cadets in basic law enforcement training. Regarding his passion for teaching and his reasons for specializing in driving, Kelly says, “Driving is one of the most important responsibilities we have in law enforcement, not just to ourselves, but also for the public. I wanted to help educate future assistants or officers in essential driving skills.

She emphasizes that driving is a life-threatening activity and cadets should understand the possible consequences of driving faster than they can safely move based on environmental conditions and their individual level of training.

“Law enforcement is one of the most varied and rewarding career fields…There are so many different options to choose from. If you want to give back to your community, this is a great way to do it, but we must strive to do so in the safest way possible,” she said. “It’s important to know our own limits and to remember that we are all human and capable of making mistakes… Putting on a uniform doesn’t change that!”

Kelly says she hopes to continue to highlight the humanity of the law enforcement professionals behind the badge during her tenure as chief: “I want the public to know me as a person, not just as a person. that “Deputy Chief Kelly”… I want them to. recognize me as “Tracy” – the avid reader and kayaker who loves gardening, biking and cross-stitching. Like most residents, I cherish my family and am passionate about my work and my hobbies. We all have so much more in common than we think; we just have to find that common thread and keep moving forward.

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