Beam is from the western side of the county, graduating from West Lincoln High School. He joined the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in 1975. Even though his grandfather, George Emmitt Rudisill, served as Lincoln County sheriff from 1936-1950, getting into law enforcement wasn’t something that Beam was interested in doing until former Lincoln County Sheriff Harven Crouse to convinced him to join the force.
Beam worked his way through the ranks over 20 years, ascending from deputy sheriff to chief deputy under Sheriff Barbara Pickens in 1994. He’s worked in the courthouse and the jail and has investigated everything from murder to narcotics.
Beam retired from full-time employment in 2005, but then returned on a part-time basis from 2010-2014 as chief deputy emeritus under current Lincoln County Sheriff David Carpenter. He stepped away from law enforcement once more when he was elected to the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners more than three years ago because he believed it would be a conflict of interest.
“What I ran on was basically my experience and my leadership abilities,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to have a good sheriff’s office in Lincoln County. David Carpenter did a good job. Every person that has led this office has had a different way of doing things. There are all kinds of different managers – there’s those that like to micromanage and that’s a little tough to work under. Then there’s those that inspire you to be the best that you can be, and I’ve found that worked better when I was the employee. That’s my philosophy. Our employees, without a doubt, are the number one resource here.”
Beam recognizes that the sheriff’s office is always going to be a young organization because of the work that they have to do. Marriage and having children will often result in someone employed in law enforcement to start to look for something else, Beam said.
“When a guy comes and works for you and they’re 21 years old, it takes around five years for somebody to get experience,” he said. “You’ve got a gun and you carry it on your hip and you’re going to ask the question, ‘can I use it if I have to?’ Until you get into a shooting situation, you’re going to ask yourself that question. Once you are in a shooting situation and you commit to using that firearm, then you don’t ask yourself that question anymore.”
Beam has changed the mission statement of the sheriff’s office. For his mission, which is really simple there are five points.
Three of these things I got from Harven (Crouse) back in the day,” he said. “He told me that law enforcement was pretty easy. You protect life, protect property and keep the peace. I try to reinforce those things to our employees every day. I added two more things, we tell the truth and do the right thing.”
There of course have been some challenges in the past year and a half, most recently the pandemic, but also a murder in the county, another homicide involving a two-year-old child, both of which have been solved, and an episode with one of his deputies at Atrium Health Lincoln involving excessive force.
“It’s all part of the territory,” he said. “You’ve got to have a tough hide to do this job. You have to prevail. We’ve had three officers who have died in my first year. For me, personally, Charlie’s (Green) death was a huge blow. He was such a light and so good at motivating people here. He made sure we did the right thing and held people accountable.”
To date, Beam and his staff have been able to keep COVID-19 out of the detention center and only one of his officers have tested positive.
“He got it through a contact with his family,” Beam said. “He has no symptoms but he’s under quarantine.”
Going forward, Beam added, there are so many things that you need in law enforcement. In light of recent events, one of the things that Beam is looking at right now is body cameras for the deputies.
“County government has been very supportive of me and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office,” he said. “This year’s budget received several new pieces of equipment that’ll make our jobs more efficient. We also have four officers that I’ll be able to hire on January 1. This is the first step to begin our journey to get a new district on the east end of the county. District policing is much more conducive to solving problems. Officers get to know their community and the community gets to know their officers better.”
Beam wouldn’t commit to whether he would run for office when his term is up in 2022, but he said that if his health was still good, it’s a good possibility that he’ll run again.
“Good people in Lincoln County support law enforcement and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office,” he said. “They let me know about it every day and I really appreciate that.”