ROANOKE, Va. – Antonio Hash always knew he wanted to serve in the criminal justice system.
At first, the Roanoke native was interested in becoming military police; however, when he witnessed a close friend join the military and immediately be called to war, he reconsidered, given that he wanted to be with his family.
After working several different jobs, Hash returned to his calling: serving his community.
“I grew up not having a lot. My mom was a single mother and my father passed when I was in fifth grade. When I grew up and understood that other people in our city didn’t have [a lot] and it was the same testimony that I had, I was like, ‘I have to change this.’”
Hash, currently a school resource officer, has served in the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office for 13 years, holding several different positions during his time there, which led him to run for the department’s highest office.
“People in our community want leadership that looks like them,” he said. “Our community wants somebody who understands, who has the heart for the community and wants to see our community go forward.”
On June 8, Hash won the Democratic nomination in Roanoke City’s Sheriff’s race. When he learned that he’d be on the November ballot, he was overwhelmed by the response from Roanoke, given that many didn’t expect a large voter turnout for the primary.
“I’m just appreciative of our community standing up during these times. Our community understood that change needed to happen and that we do it better together.”
The Roanoke City Sheriff oversees jail operations, courthouse security and school resource officers.
Hash said one of the biggest problems that the community currently faces is gun violence and mentioned how criminal activity involving youth has increased.
“We’ve been meeting with community partners to see what we can do to get some of these guns off the streets.”
The sheriff nominee has also been discussing programs that would best move the community forward. So far, he’s worked with TAP, Virginia Cares, Goodwill, New Horizons Healthcare and others.
“If the community has resources, those resources have to get back in the hands of the people who need them.”
Hash aspires to offer a program that would allow first-time non-violent offenders to be required to participate in community service projects on weekends, rather than be incarcerated. He said he was inspired by another jurisdiction, which started the program about three years ago.
Hash also wants to start a quarterly forum where community members come into the jail and ask questions or voice their concerns about the Sheriff’s Office.
“A lot of times people want to speak up, but they either can’t or don’t have someone that’s listening to them,” Hash said. “It also gives our young people the opportunity to know about their rights. I’m trying to create opportunity.”
In addition, he said he also wants to bring Roanoke’s Citizen Academy back to help give the community a better understanding of how the department operates.
“A good sheriff is someone who is able to listen to people, they have a heart for the people. They’re also able to see people’s best qualities and pull it out of them.”
The results of the Democratic Primary Election are unofficial until the Electoral Board certifies the election on June 14. Once this happens, Hash will run unopposed; so barring someone launching a winning write-in campaign, Hash will likely be the next Roanoke City Sheriff.
When asked how he feels about the chance to serve as sheriff, he had one word: appreciative.
“I just appreciate the opportunity to serve our city in the mass capacity that they’re allowing me to serve,” he said. “Under my administration, I want to unite our city as one city. No matter what color you are, how much money you make or what sorority or fraternity you’re a part of, we are Roanoke City, united as one.”