Even as he celebrates a close victory, Tyrone Lewis is already making plans to develop partnerships with agencies and neighboring counties when he becomes Hinds County sheriff in January.
Lewis defeated longtime Sheriff Malcolm McMillin in the Democratic primary by just over 2,000 votes earlier this month, and he has no Republican challenger on the ballot in the general election.
One of Lewis' top priorities when he takes office will be to increase the visibility of the sheriff's office across the entire county, he said, particularly in areas that are having more issues than others. His other priority is developing partnerships and relationships with other agencies, both inside and outside of Hinds County, including regular communications with the sheriff's departments in Madison and Rankin counties.
"(It is) important that we formalize those relationships, because we're on the border with each other and we all deal with the same issues and some of the same individuals that commit crime," he said.
Lewis is a former Jackson Police officer and interim police chief. He first ran for Hinds County sheriff the first time in 2007, but failed to beat McMillin, who had been the county's sheriff for 20 years. This time, Lewis ran an aggressive, grassroots campaign, collected endorsements from city and community leaders, and used social media to build up support.
The Democratic Party declared Lewis the winner after a messy process of hand-counting ballots that dragged on for more than a week after the primary. Campaign supporters, attorneys, election commissioners and party representatives argued at every turn of the process. Finally, the Democrats emerged from the process with a final vote count amid speculation that McMillin would challenge the outcome. McMillin conceded the race to Lewis Aug. 11.
Lewis said he is putting together a transition team to work hand-in-hand with the current administration to ensure a smooth transition. Lewis and his team will also determine what changes they will make to the sheriff's department to fit with his vision and platform, he said, although he does not yet know what those changes will be.
"We're not in a hurry," he said. "(We) want make sure it's a slow process, so we hadn't put a timeline on it. We don't take office until January."
In the meantime, Lewis is revisiting the places he went during the campaign to thank the people, associations and civic groups who supported him. This evening, supporters are hosting an invite-only reception to congratulate Lewis on his election.
Lewis attended an Aug. 14 vigil for James Craig Anderson, who was killed in what is being investigated as a racially-motivated murder. Lewis said he went to the vigil as a parent and as a part of the community.
"I care about what goes on with this community," he told the Jackson Free Press that evening. "It's part of my platform that I campaigned on, as far as unifying and developing relationships and partnerships, and therefore, I want to be a part of unifying and reconciliation."
He is not part of the investigation into Anderson's death, but Lewis said law enforcement's role in prosecuting hate crimes is to do a proper investigation and get all the facts.
"It's about following your training and being fair," he said.