For the past 30 years, Gerald Robinson has dedicated his life to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. And now he says he’s ready to continue his public service in the role of judge for Jefferson County.
“I feel that I have served my time as sheriff and my season is over,” Robinson said. “I have groomed an excellent young man (Lafayette Woods Jr., who is running for sheriff this year) to replace me, and I am satisfied with where the sheriff’s office stands in this community. Now, I want to start a new season as county judge, where I feel that I can build relationships and unite the elected officials.”
Journey to sheriff
Born and raised in Humphrey, Robinson is a graduate of Humphrey High School. In 1987, he graduated from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration.
Back in 2006, Robinson made history as the first African-American sheriff elected to office in Jefferson County. If elected judge, he’s set to break another glass ceiling by being the only African-American person to serve as Jefferson County judge and sheriff.
Since 1988, Robinson has served in several capacities within the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, starting as a deputy jailer. In 1992, he transferred to the Uniformed Patrol Division, where he assumed additional duties as a criminal investigator. Rising through the ranks, Robinson later went on to become a lieutenant, captain, division commander and undersheriff/chief deputy — all of which helped him blaze a trail to become sheriff.
Prior to joining the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Robinson served in the Army branch of the United States Military from 1981 to 1994. While in the Army/Army Reserve, he was promoted to Sergeant 1st Class and served in the Persian Gulf War.
A man on a mission
Robinson served six terms as sheriff. During his time in office, he worked to provide citizens of Jefferson County with an improved quality of life, his campaign said.
“If you have asked for the support of the sheriff’s office, I’ve been there,” Robinson said. “We have been dependable, we have been an agency you can trust, and we have been an agency that has made great strides in this community from our youth to our elderly and our veterans.”
Despite inheriting ongoing fiscal issues in the county, Robinson found resources to help alleviate such problems, according to his campaign.
“I’ve had to do more with less suffering from probably the majority of budget cuts out of the county general budget,” he said. “But, I’ve still managed to work with the Quorum Court and we’ve also managed to find other funding sources to be able to operate better. Under my leadership as sheriff, we stopped the bleeding of outsourcing prisoners to other counties to completing a new jail that now brings in almost $2 million in additional revenue with the programs that I’ve put in place.”
In addition to the strides he’s made within the community, Robinson used the same assertiveness to shape and grow his department, his campaign said.
“I feel that as sheriff, I have brought energy to the sheriff’s office,” he said. “I have managed to bring it to a point that I feel that the sheriff’s office is one of the best law enforcement agencies in the state, and I feel that I can bring that same energy as county judge.”
Robinson will leave the office of sheriff with the platform he campaigned on.
“I hope that my legacy is just like the slogan I used, ‘there’s progress in experience,’” he said. “I hope that the people have seen the progress that the sheriff’s office has made. I hope that people can see that the sheriff’s office has become user-friendly to the public by reaching out and creating programs like our adopted grandparent program and our highway liter program.”
He went on to say that he was fortunate enough to accomplish everything he set out to do while serving as sheriff.
“I just want to leave a legacy that when they think about Sheriff Robinson that they think about how he made people accountable, and that he earned the respect of his peers and he created unity within the sheriff’s office and Jefferson County,” he said.
Closing one door, opening another
In August, Robinson announced that he would not seek re-election as sheriff and instead would be retiring from the department.
“Even though I was looking at retirement, I still feel like I have much to give,” Robinson said.
Robinson’s run for judge appears to be fueled by his passion for not only people, but also service, according to his campaign.
“I have a great love for the county,” he said. “Even though I’m retiring as sheriff, I still want the citizens of Jefferson County, elected officials and employees to be thought of and treated right. So, you don’t leave an office where you have served so many years and not think about what’s to come.”
Although Robinson says he will always remember his time as sheriff, he realizes that it is time for him to close that door.
“There is no position that any man can have that he loves that he won’t miss and that includes being a soldier,” Robinson said. “I miss being a soldier. I loved being a soldier, but my season
ended. I carried that into my service to the people as a law enforcement officer. I love being sheriff, but my season will end.”
Commitment to public service
Throughout his time as sheriff, Robinson implemented initiatives that redefined professional standards, re-allocated resources, built regional partnerships, and expanded patrols in the county.
“I have over 30 years of experience with the county from an employee standpoint all the way to the chief law enforcement officer of the county,” he said. “I’m well-equipped to handle budgets being that the sheriff’s office has the largest budget within the county.”
He advocated on behalf of domestic abuse victims along with holding deadbeat dads accountable. Increasingly aware of the opioid crisis and how it is rapidly flowing throughout the county, Robinson plans to continue to assist the sheriff’s office in creating avenues to fight it. Additionally, he states that he desires to make changes to blighted areas of the county.
“I’ve had great working relationships with judges in the past,” he said. “So, I’m very familiar with the road department. There are some things that I see that I can make some changes to as far as the road department.”
Robinson remains prepared to continue to work through the monetary matters within the county to position Jefferson County for the future, according to his campaign.
“I recognize the county is facing tough financial times, but believe by working with other elected officials we can solve any problems that we face as we have done before to continue to make this county great,” he said. “I’m optimistic in the fact that we have seen glory days come and go and I believe they’ll come again.”
With a background in construction as a combat engineer in the Army, Robinson wants to continue to expand throughout the county.
“Anyone who has followed my career knows that I was instrumental in the building of the current district court building, the completion of the jail, and the new sheriff’s office,” he said. “So, I’ve been able to have the vision to find ways to make progress. I do want to see the county be a county known for growth in the area of economic development and I want to be known as the county judge that contributed to that growth.”
A 2002 graduate of the Federal Bureau Investigation National Academy, Robinson is dedicated to the enrichment of his education and expertise in the field of law enforcement. He also studied at the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy, School of Law Enforcement Supervision, Arkansas Leader, and Leadership Pine Bluff. With extensive knowledge in various areas of law enforcement, Robinson says he’s uniquely positioned to hold the office of judge.
“I understand my call to service as I prepared for this office through experience and education,” he said. “My call to service is unwavering not only to this community, but also to this country as a soldier and serving as the county sheriff. And now, I’m prepared to do that as county judge.”
In addition to serving the public, he’s also active in the community as a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Arkansas Sheriff’s Association, National Sheriff’s Association and Jefferson County Central Democratic Committee. He has also been awarded the Clarence A. Jenkins Humanitarian Award for his service to the City of Pine Bluff, Jefferson County and State of Arkansas.
Power in networking
Having met people across various organizations as sheriff, Robinson plans to use those same connections if elected county judge.
“Being a member of the FBI National Academy, I have access to law enforcement all over the country,” he said. “I have worked with federal agencies; I have worked with the attorney general’s office and made relationships in the governor’s office all the way to our local and state representatives. I’ve been able to network to get things done.”
No matter who it is, Robinson believes he can relate to anyone noting that the love for Jefferson County connects him to residents.
“Being sheriff has allowed me to be able to deal with people on all levels from the bank to the farmers,” he said. “So, I have a wide variety of network who I deal with and I think I can carry that into the county judge’s office.”
Though he feels he has the experience to become judge, he adds that it’s one skill that a person possesses that will allow him or her to be the best candidate for the position.
“I believe that in order to be that an executive officer that you have to create relationships and reach out to others,” he said. “But, the key to me being a good county judge will be my ability to listen.”
Robinson believes that his run for county judge is a spiritual sign from God, according to his campaign. A member of First Missionary Baptist Church, he is a devout Christian and relies heavily on his faith.
“I think this was a divine spiritual direction for me to take in my life,” he said of the transition from sheriff to judge. “I’m walking out on my own as the sheriff,” he said. “I never got voted out and I was never defeated. I came in with my head high and I’m going to walk out with my head high knowing that the sheriff’s office is in a better place than when I took over.”
With the support of his children Christian, Chardell and Cameron Robinson, family and friends, Robinson is equipped to take the reigns of county judge, his campaign said.
With the help of the community, Robinson wants to continue to push the county forward and hopes to be able to do so as judge.
“I am committed to this county and I love the citizens,” Robinson said. “I enjoy helping others and to continue that I pledge to bridge that gap and work together with everyone for the common good. So, I ask the citizens of Jefferson County in joining me to elect me as your next Jefferson County judge.”