Editor’s Note: Whether they moved here from other parts of North Carolina or out-of-state, many people in our beach towns are from somewhere else. As time moves on, however, we’re seeing more “beach kids” who have grown to adults and stayed right in here in Brunswick County, where they found something they love doing in the place they loved growing up. Sheriff Brian Chism is one of them, having grown up on Oak Island, now living off the island but with a career that allows him to support all of Brunswick County. We were glad for the chance to sit down with the Sheriff and learn more about his first year in office and his future plans. 

Just about one year ago, Sheriff Brian Chism took his first oath of office as Sheriff, and though he has worked in law enforcement there for 20 years, his main goal remains the same — helping people in any way possible. The Sheriff’s position is elected every four years, but Sheriff Chism was appointed when former Sheriff John Ingram retired. The Sheriff credits his staff for helping to make his transition to his new position an easy one. “I was kind of concerned about the transition at first, because you don’t know what it’s like until you sit in the seat, but I have a great command staff here and got nothing but support,” he said. “I am very humbled and grateful for that. And the community welcomed me as well. I am just blessed.”

Sheriff Chism also counts family and living on the coast among his blessings. As a child growing up on Oak Island, Sheriff Chism said the children played outside, rode their bikes all over the west end of the island and when the sun was setting or Dad whistled, we knew it was time to go home.

“My wife is from here, born and raised. Oak Island is home for me, and every time I drive over the bridge, the stress just kind of goes away. I love going to see my Mom and Dad on Oak Island,” he said. 

He and his wife Serena have been married since 2005, though they’ve been together 26 years. 

“My dad coached her brother in soccer. She hated me in high school,” he said with a smile. 

Sheriff Chism didn’t start out his working life knowing he wanted to be in law enforcement. As a teenager, he worked at the former Country Kitchen restaurant on Oak Island bussing tables and then cooking. He worked in started working with John’s Plumbing and stayed in that job for several years. 

“I did plumbing for seven years, so I know what real work is,” he said. “I realized that was not what I wanted for a career.”

He recalled visiting a cousin who had served as a Marine and was working with Prince William County police in Virginia. “I did some ride alongside with him and I thought I could see myself doing this. I got more passionate about service. I wish I had gone into the military when I was 18 years old, but I didn’t want anyone telling me what to do. That passion for helping people, what better way to do that than become a law enforcement officer,” he said. “I know that sounds cliche, but that’s literally why I got into law enforcement — to help people.” 

He asked a deputy sheriff here in Brunswick County where to start, and was told to look into the Basic Law Enforcement Training program at Brunswick Community College.

“When I did that, everything just fell into place like it was meant to be,” he said. “I never looked back.”

The Sheriff said every aspect of the Sheriff’s Office helps people in some way, shape, or form. The administrative staff helps people who come to the office looking for help with reports, concealed carry permits, fingerprinting for jobs, etc. Deputies on patrol answer 911 calls and detention center employees work to help with rehabilitation. Telecommunicators answer the phone and send help to people asking for it. 

“Every aspect is about helping and serving the community of Brunswick County,” he said. 

Like many deputies, Sheriff Chism started out on patrol. After seven months, he became a K-9 officer. He said he “worked his tail off” those first seven months.

He recalled knowing he wanted to do something with narcotics, but also wanted to work with dogs. “So for seven months, I was at training day when I was off, on my own time, learning about the dogs and what they did, and even working with some of the dogs, being the bite dummy in the suit. I was that guy getting beat up by the dogs,” he said. When a position came open, he was the one to get it, and he worked in that unit for 10 years. He said that their main focus was to push people off the street corners into houses, and the narcotics team took over from there. He had taken over the K-9 unit, and was training K-9 officers when a new position was created for a 1st Sergeant on the road for each of the four shifts, and he filled one of those slots. He was promoted to lieutenant and supervised all of patrol, then took over the civil and warrants division as well, then K-9s and School Resource Officers. 

“Throughout my 20-year career, I have supervised or been in every division of the Sheriff’s Office,” he said.  

Now the Sheriff runs a department with 348 employees, sworn and non-sworn, with a volunteer corps assisting. 

When Sheriff Chism started as a deputy, he said he planned to stick with one agency, to start and finish at the same department. He said that when Sheriff Ingram and Rep. Charlie Miller, then the Office’s Chief Deputy, approached him about being Sheriff, it hadn’t been something he sought and that he always wants his work to speak for itself. Now as Sheriff, he said the job comes with its share of stress, but that he really is enjoying it. 

“You don’t know what’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen, but something is going to happen every day,” he said. He said other than that uncertainty, and dealing with personnel issues, being Sheriff is the best job because he gets to meet new people and help them. 

“One goal that I have for myself is I don’t want to be that person who only comes a certain time in the year or every four years,” he said. “What I am doing now is something I want to maintain — being out in public, going to events, speaking to people, and going into communities.” 

Sheriff Chism spoke highly of community support as well, saying that in April, the Office received permission to install a memorial for fallen officers, which is being funded through donations.

And while the community he serves continues to grow, Sheriff Chism said his intention is to work with the county commissioners in assessing any resource or personnel needs to accommodate that growth. “It is imperative to public safety that we stay on top of the growth in our county, which can be very challenging given how fast we are growing. But with the hard work and dedication of our staff and the support of our county commissioners as well as our community, I am very optimistic about the future,” he said.

Sheriff Chism speaks highly of community support the Office sees, saying that in April, they received permission to install a memorial for fallen officers, which is being funded through donations.

“The perception is that everyone hates law enforcement, but in Brunswick County, I think the citizens love us. I feel like we have a good relationship with our citizens, and that’s because we’re out there” he said.

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