COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- Columbus County Sheriff Chris Batten says he will resign early next year.
"It has been an absolute dream to work for the citizens of Columbus County," Batten said in a statement. "My time as sheriff has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life."
Batten, first elected in 2002, says he will step down effective at noon on Jan. 7, 2014. He says he has accepted a job with the North Carolina Department of Justice as Eastern Field representative for the North Carolina Sheriffs' Education Training and Standards.
Batten says he has worked closely with Sheriff Standards for about eight years representing the sheriffs in the region on the commission. He says in his new role he will be working with sheriffs all over eastern North Carolina to ensure training practices are followed and sheriff's offices records are in order.
Batten tells WWAY he is recommending his chief deputy Maj. Lewis Hatcher to be his successor.
"Lewis has done a lot of work with the county,” said Columbus County Manager William Clark. “He comes to a lot of our meetings and he plays a major role. I think he would make a good sheriff."
"He has left big shoes to fill, but he has trained a force there that any person that comes off that force that worked with him I do believe would do a fantastic job,” said District I Commissioner Amon McKenzie. “I hate to see him go."