Who am I?
My name is Joe Baron and I am the Sheriff for the City of Norfolk, VA. Throughout my life I have served others in my community. I am a veteran and I have served in law enforcement since 1985. With over 20 years in supervisor and leadership roles, I have learned the most important job of a leader is to create a threat free environment for staff, focused on valuing and helping others. I was raised with Christian values and I believe in being humble, serving in the spirit of the Golden Rule, and seeking always to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. My values include integrity in all things, respect at all times, duty without prejudice, pride without ego, and team before self. I am not here to be served by others. I am here to contribute to the overall good of our community. That philosophy keeps me focused on how every part of our operation can be a point to help others and make a difference. Inmate programs are evidence based and focused on recovery, education, and creating job skills. Outreach is focused on the most vulnerable in our community, our senior citizens and our children. Overall Sheriff's Office operations are focused on getting the job done with an eye on high morale, public safety, public service, and maintaining public trust. Motivated employees get the job done and it keeps us in line with state requirements and community expectations.
What am I personally passionate about when creating policy?
Education is the key to changing the landscape of crime in our community. Couple education with job skills training and opportunities and you are on the road to reducing jail and prison populations. Add to that serious substance abuse and mental health programs and resources, you have the equation for changing the entire landscape of public safety. That's why I focus on inmate programs that are evidence based and address: EDUCATION w/ GED, reading, and college courses, JOB SKILLS w/ vocation classes, and a robust MENTAL HEALTH & SUBSTANCE ABUSE program. Our outreach programs include serving the disabled, connecting seniors to services, and creating programs to help our most vulnerable youth. We are the only Sheriff's Office running a "Camp Hope" in the country. If you want to know what I am passionate about, it is pretty simple. I am passionate about making a difference.
What qualities does this office possess that makes it a unique and important part of the state government and legal system?
The Norfolk Sheriff's Office plays a significant role in our legal system. The Civil Process unit serves all court orders, subpoenas, and other court related papers like jury summonses. This keeps our judicial system working. When you couple that with the fact that we provide security and bailiffs for the courthouse, it is easy to understand our court system is entirely dependent on effective, efficient, and well trained Sheriff's Office staff. Finally, the Norfolk Sheriff's Office runs one of the largest jails in the state. Efficiency is important to ensure tax dollars are stretched to meet community expectations. But what is also important is our vision to make a difference in the lives of others. 96% of those in the jail are coming back to our community. Well over 60% have not had their day in court. Our job at the jail is not to punish, their punishment is their separation from the community as determined by a judge or a magistrate. Our job is to maintain an environment conducive to life, health, safety, and security. While accomplishing this goal, we are also in a unique position to help reduce recidivism with robust inmate programs focused on substance abuse, mental health, education, and job skills training. If the Sheriff's Office is effective, it can help reduce repeat offenders, help get the mentally ill to treatment and normalcy, and help lead the addicted to sobriety.
What responsibilities of this office do you personally consider the most important?
The most important responsibilities of this office are ensuring we have a highly trained and motivated staff to get the job done of creating a safe, secure, and healthy jail facility which provides the absolute best programs to make a meaningful difference for our community. That requires me to be focused on employee morale and training. It also requires me to have audits and spot checks to ensure we spot every moment where we can sing the praises of our staff for a job well done. It also provides us opportunities to bolster training of our staff when we see a need for improvement. Further, it shows us where there is a need for accountability. Getting this right helps with our commitments to public safety, public service, and public trust.
What kind of skills or expertise do you believe would be the most helpful for the holders of this office to possess?
Anyone who holds this office is going to be responsible for over 500 employees, a budget that is over $35 million, and the operations of courts, civil process, and a jail with over 850 inmates. So you must first have very strong leadership and management skills to hold this office. You have to know how to treat people, how to motivate them, and how to ensure their well-being in the work environment and for those who are incarcerated. You have to understand it is all a balance between taking care of people and meeting the obligations of state mandates, court expectations, and maintaining a safe and secure operation. So you have to have people skills, be a problem solver, be able to multi task, understand leadership philosophy, and have a sense of humor. You must have a level of expertise in the criminal justice system, state law, intergovernmental relations, public policy, and overall management.
Is there a book, essay, film, or something else you would recommend to someone who wants to understand your political philosophy?
My political philosophy is really rooted in leadership. It's not about party politics, it is about serving others with a purpose. My purpose is about making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. So whatever I do is towards that goal and effective leadership is one way to accomplish that purpose. There are two main books that would help anyone understand my "leadership" philosophy. First is "Turn the Ship Around (A true story of turning followers into leaders)" by L. David Marquet. The second is "Start with Why (How great leaders inspire everyone to take action)" by Simon Sinek. I would also recommend a short YouTube video: "Know Your Why | Michael Jr."