In his almost 44 years with the City of Chesapeake, Sheriff John Newhart earned a reputation for his community service projects, even displaying the slogan “Dedicated To Our Community,” on all of the sheriff’s office vehicles at one time.
As a way of showing its appreciation, Tidewater Builders Association is hosting Sheriff Newhart Day during the final day of Homearama in the Culpepper Landing community on Sunday, July 1, for guests who would like to personally thank the sheriff for his service and wish him well on his upcoming retirement in September.
Newhart will be in residence in The Dawn Michelle: The Chesapeake House from 2 to 4 p.m. It is one of eight fully furnished and decorated showcase homes on display in the Deep Creek neighborhood. Visitors can enjoy a celebration cake, and pen their own personalized messages in a guest book to be presented to the sheriff for a keepsake.
The sheriff is responsible for running the city jail, providing courthouse security and serving legal papers. Newhart was elected to the office in 1969 and, at the time, was the youngest person to be elected to the position in the Commonwealth’s history. He has since gone on to become the senior sheriff in Virginia and the third longest-serving sheriff in the nation.
During his more than 40-year career, Sheriff Newhart has been recognized as an innovator in the field of community-based corrections. Many programs that he initiated are now accepted as the standard for local jails. Under his leadership, an inmate work-release program, a search and rescue unit and a jail ministry were developed. He also started a Project Lifesaver program to track Alzheimer’s patients, established a program that helps poor elderly people who have been burglarized, and launched an annual two-day event that provides health screenings and other services for seniors.
Sheriff Newhart was raised in the South Norfolk section of Chesapeake. He attended Oscar F. Smith High School, and continued his education at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy in Quantico.
His law enforcement career began in 1958 in the Army where he served as an investigator attached to the military police in Berlin, Germany. Upon being honorably discharged in 1964, Sheriff Newhart joined the Chesapeake Police Department as a motorcycle officer.
Some of Newhart’s community involvement includes being the past regional director for the Virginia Special Olympics, member of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 9, past Board of Directors member for the Chesapeake Health Care Foundation, director of the Great American Food Fest, Senior Support Services Seminar and the Indigent Family Christmas Baskets distribution.
Newhart was awarded the Thousand Points of Light Award from former President George H. Bush. He was also awarded the 1997 National Sheriff of the Year from the National Sheriff’s Association. He is a past president and co-founder of the Virginia Sheriff’s Institute, as well as past president of the American Jail Association and the Virginia Association of Executive Constitutional Officers. He also is a former First Citizen of Chesapeake, as well as recipient of the South Norfolk Ruritan of the Year Award, to name a few.
A retirement reception honoring Sheriff Newhart will be held on Nov. 2, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Khedive Shrine Center, 645 Woodlake Drive, Chesapeake. Tickets cost $ 50 before Sept. 1 and can be reserved at (757) 382-6159.