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WHITEVILLE, NC (WWAY) — As one door for the Columbus County Sheriff opens, another one closes.

At the start of the new year, Chris Batten will go to work for the Department of Justice as Eastern Field representative for the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Education Training and Standards.

He said he will work primarily with sheriff’s offices in eastern North Carolina and Virginia, dealing with enforcement certification.

Batten said it was emotional for he and his staff when he told them he was leaving.

“I stood there, at that door after the meeting and I don’t think you could count on one had the ones that didn’t come through and shed a tear,” he said. “I love what I do. I love serving the citizens. I love helping people.”

Under Batten, the county built a new jail and upgraded every patrol car with computers and cameras.

“He did a lot. He started a lot of new programs here at the Sheriff’s Office,” said Patrol Captain Bobby Worely.

Batten was elected sheriff in 2002. He said planned on running for re-election when his term was up, but that changed three months ago.

“This job became available in September and I talked to my wife about it. We said a few prayers and I applied for it just to see what would happen,” said Batten.

Out of 178 applicants, Batten came out on top.

Batten recommended the Democratic Party nominate Chief Deputy Major Lewis Hatcher for the job.

A position Hatcher says he is ready to take on.

“I’m familiar with how the office runs. I am familiar with everyone here. I have a good understanding how the judicial system works, so I am ready for it,” said Lewis Hatcher.

The county commissioners will approve the appointment for the next sheriff during their January 6 meeting.

Batten said he has yet to hear when his official start date is, but expects to begin work mid-January.

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