“I thought it was going to be a close race,” Cochran said. “I didn’t realize it was going to be as close as it was.”
Cochran said his campaign pledge to crack down on the methamphetamine epidemic resonated with voters.
“It sends a message that Swain County wants something done about this drug problem. That was the thrust of my campaign,” Cochran said. “I preached that everywhere I went, and that’s what we are going to do. We are going to work on drugs hot and heavy.”
Cochran also pledged to be more accessible to the public.
“I am going to be a sheriff that is on the job every day. I am going to be in the community and available to people in the office. I am going to be like the boll weevil. I’m going to be everywhere.”
Cochran, 53, has no law enforcement experience but says he has the necessary management skills to run the sheriff’s department.
“I believe people of Swain County will let things go to a certain point, but if they see and problem and it’s not being addressed, they are willing to try new people and new ideas,” Cochran said.
Cochran has been the manager of the Swain County maintenance department for 13 years. Before that, he oversaw billion-dollar public works projects across the country.
Ogle has spent his career in law enforcement, including a long tenure with the Highway Patrol. He had served as sheriff since 1994.
During exit poll interviews, John West, 39, who works for the Cherokee Police Department, said he voted for Cochran.
“It’s time for a change,” West said.
A new sheriff can often mean a restructuring of job positions within the department. Cochran said he does not have any preconceived plans.
“I don’t have any intention of going over there and firing everybody in that sheriff’s department. I don’t have a problem with anyone who does their job professionally and courteously,” Cochran said.
Cochran said he would like to sit down with Ogle next week and review personnel records, including arrest rates.
“A lot of things will factor in as to who stays and who doesn’t stay,” Cochran said. “We work for the public. We are public servants.”