Robert Lee, a Seaford Republican with nearly four decades of law enforcement experience, says he will file this week to run for Sussex County Sheriff.
The seat is held by Sheriff Jeff Christopher, also a Republican, who has not officially filed to run but has indicated he will seek a second term.
“The Sheriff's Office does not need arrest powers to do a good job for the people of Sussex County,” Lee said. He says he agrees with the Delaware Supreme Court ruling that the sheriff does not need to make arrests to be a conservator of the peace. Justice Randy Holland handed down the ruling in October after Christoper had appealed a Superior Court ruling that his office did not have arrest powers. Christopher filed a lawsuit against county officials May 9, 2012.
Lee said he wants to offer voters a choice in the Tuesday, Sept. 9 primary. “I would not run against him if I had the same views,” Lee said. “I want to stay and work within the law. There has been too much turmoil. We need someone who can serve as a liaison between the people, county council, the courts and corrections. It is not the role of the sheriff to spend time redefining the current job as defined by law.”
Lee said he does not look at the office as a law enforcement branch. “The Sheriff's Office is a very important part of the court system,” Lee said.
Lee said his experience has taught him that cooperation is key to success. He said the office is one spoke in the public service wheel. “We all have to work together for the good of the county,” he said.
Lee said Delaware code is specific when it outlines the duties of the Sheriff's Office – to serve documents created by the courts and coordinate foreclosure and personal property sales. “Still, there is nothing wrong with deputies helping a citizen or being a good witness in their normal course of duties,” Lee said.
Lee said he has been farming most of the past year after retiring from his last job working for the Attorney General's Office. “I realized my public service is not up yet,” he said.
Lee and his wife, Lori, who is senior director of nursing and ICU at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, have six adult children.
Lee worked for the Metro Transit Police in Washington, D.C., from 1975 to 1977 after graduation from American University. He worked for the Seaford Police Department from 1977 until retirement in 2002 as head of the criminal investigation unit. He worked as the Sussex County detective for the Delaware Attorney General's Office until retirement in 2013. His duties included extraditing fugitives from other states back to Delaware.
He has attended numerous law enforcement training classes and seminars including the Delaware Police Academy and the Maryland State Police Motorcycle School.
Lee has coached various youth sports over the years and is an active member of Gethsemane United Methodist Church near Seaford where is a member of the praise and worship team. He is a board member for Sussex Tech High School's criminal justice program and recently served as a judge for the Seaford Soroptimist Youth Forum. He is currently involved with a Wounded Warrior project with several other hunters.