RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A grassroots campaign led to a big victory in the race for Wake County sheriff.
Retired Sheriff Maj. Willie Rowe beat out former Sheriff Donnie Harrison in a hard-fought battle for the county's top cop.
"I think we had a message to resonate with everybody. We focus on treating everybody the same," said Rowe, a Democrat.
ABC11 caught up with the sheriff-elect a day after his victory. Rowe laid out his key priorities and at the top of his list is addressing staffing within the sheriff's office.
"We are short," said Rowe.
He couldn't give exact numbers but explained law enforcement is facing the same staffing hurdles as other industries.
"We've got to get up to sufficient staffing levels, with our deputies, our detention officers, as well as our civilian staff, so that we can be effective and efficient," Rowe said.
Rowe said to keep the current deputies and recruit new officers will start with boosting morale.
"To show people that we care about the staff, we create opportunities for staff to advance, we properly compensate them, then it becomes a situation where you love to come to work and do your job," he said. "And that attracts more people to want to be a part of the sheriff's office family."
Also on Rowe's list of day-one priorities is getting a handle on gun violence in the county and addressing its effect on young people.
"When I have deputies and detention, staff and civilian staff, serving as mentors and coaches, we build that relationship," Rowe said. "And what happens is that our youth is able to look past a uniform and see a person and our staff is able to see a little bit of themselves when they were that age. "
Rowe said it's about building relationships with the community. The sheriff-elect served 28 years with the Wake County Sheriff's Office before retiring in 2013. He served in many leadership roles within several departments including investigations, narcotics, and patrol.