The announcement came at the county Republican’s annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner in Manassas, eclipsing the night’s mainliner Ralph Reed, a political consultant who became a national figure directing the Christian Coalition.
“Tonight I am announcing I am a Republican nominee for the office of sheriff,” he said to cheers.
Hill, 56, with his wife Carolyn by his side, told about 200 fellow party members in attendance he would return dignity to the Sheriff’s Office, which has caused controversy as it has stepped into police affairs and created needless funding disputes.
The Board of County Supervisors the last two years has been split on funding additional deputies for Sheriff E. Lee Stoffregen because he has been putting deputies out on the streets conducting traffic enforcement.
In Prince William, the primary function of the Sheriff’s Office is courthouse security and prisoner transport, while jail security is handled by Hill’s department.
The extra traffic enforcement relies on grant money and vehicles that the sheriff obtained without tax dollars, but Hill said he would not allow it unless police Chief Charles T. Deane asked him for help.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “In my career I have witnessed controversy and stepped up to challenging issues … once again I will step up.”
Hill became interim superintendent of the Prince William-Manassas regional jail in 1992 during a poor period of relations between the city and county that jointly operate it. He earned respect from all sides and was appointed to the position in 1993.
Hill, originally from New Bern, N.C., played defensive back on his high school’s football team but forwent college scholarships to join the Army in 1965. He served four years, which brought him to Prince William when he was stationed at Vint Hill Station for the Army Security Agency.
He became Manassas’ first black police officer in 1969, served 11 years, then after a short stint helping a family member start a business, went to work at the jail. He served as a background investigator and hiring officer before he became superintendent.
He stressed he has respect for the personnel in the Sheriff’s Office — the behavior of Stoffregen is the target of his criticism.
Hill said he would not solicit campaign contributions from sheriff’s deputies. If they want to give to his campaign, they can like other citizens.
He said he wants to take politics out of the sheriff’s position as much as possible, and he will not require deputies to volunteer at political events.
Hill acknowledged his going against incumbent Stoffregen will be a challenge. Stoffregen has a war chest of more than $300,000.
“It’s going to be a tough race … but the office of the sheriff is not up for bid.”
Asked if he chose to announce the same night as Stoffregen’s kickoff on purpose, Hill said he had been thinking about it for weeks and just felt this was the time.
Hill didn’t tip his hand before the dinner, declining at the reception to say whether he was announcing.
Stoffregen sits on the jail board under which Hill serves, and Hill said the board has agreed to let him take annual leave for campaign activities.
While on the clock, Hill has said he will not do campaign work, not even take reporters’ calls.
“We are proud to have this man on our side,” said Trent Barton, who introduced him.