Chatham@Work | Sara Pack, Chatham County Sheriff’s Department

Posted 7/5/19

Sara Pack was born and raised in Highfalls — now known as High Falls, “although it will always be one word in my heart,” she says — and grew up near Bennett, but now lives on a cattle farm …

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Chatham@Work | Sara Pack, Chatham County Sheriff’s Department

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Sara Pack was born and raised in Highfalls — now known as High Falls, “although it will always be one word in my heart,” she says — and grew up near Bennett, but now lives on a cattle farm near Seagrove. She spends most of her daylight hours, however, at the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, where she’s an administrative lieutenant and the department’s public information officer ­— at least when she’s not chasing down a stray buffalo.

Pack has bachelor degrees in English, criminal justice and psychology and earned a masters of public administration in criminal justice. She holds a number of advanced law enforcement certificates from the North Carolina Sheriff’s Education and Training Standards Commission and has graduated from several law enforcement leadership programs. She joined the Chatham Sheriff’s Office in 2015 and supervises the records, evidence and victim services divisions within the department’s Administration Unit, in addition to her duties as PIO.

What’s unique about what you do for a living?

No two days are the same. Like most deputies, I wear many hats and juggle a multitude of responsibilities each time I put on my uniform. Law enforcement is only a small part of what we do for the community!

What’s the most unusual customer request or question you’ve ever had?

I was once called upon to assist in locating and capturing a runaway buffalo.

What part of your job would most surprise people?

Probably the opportunity and need for creativity in law enforcement. When I speak to students about what I do for a living, they’re often surprised to learn that we have use for artists, musicians, graphic designers, photographers, writers, performers, etc., in uniform. Whether we are sketching a suspect or crime scene layout, acting as a role player during training exercises, designing vehicle decals to enhance safety and visibility, playing an instrument during an Honor Guard presentation, managing webpages or writing articles to keep the public informed, there is ALWAYS room for imagination and application of personal talents. We are always looking for creative problem-solvers who want to use their abilities to benefit the community.

What advice would you give someone considering doing the same line of work as you?

1) There may be many voices telling you that law enforcement “isn’t for you” or that you are either “not ____ enough” or “too” something to be an officer — too old, too weak, too smart, too poor, too large, too thin, or too feminine. My advice is this: Don’t listen to them. If a career in law enforcement is your dream, don’t let anyone stand in your way!

2) Law enforcement is a HUGE career field — so do plenty of research in advance to narrow down agencies that may be a best fit for you and your goals. Don’t let starting pay dictate where you take your oath. Instead, ask about training and advancement opportunities, diversity, the leadership team and their plan for the future. If what you hear isn’t in alignment with your values or areas of interest, keep looking until you find a match. Doing your homework on the front end will save you the hassle of changing agencies later down the road!

Your ultimate “happy place?”

Anytime I am surrounded by books, I am happy! My soul gravitates to bookstores and libraries. There is always room for one more book in my life, and when I’m with a story, I’m home.

Favorite character from a Disney movie:

Archimedes the owl from The Sword in the Stone. He is Merlin’s loyal companion, but isn’t afraid to share ideas, speak his mind, or point out shortcomings when necessary. He’s well-educated and possesses practical AND book smarts, along with a witty sense of humor. He might seem standoffish at first, but he truly cares about his friends and is always swooping in to the rescue when they’re in trouble!

Least favorite saying, and why you don’t like it:

“It is what it is.” It’s like you’re verbally throwing in the towel! I feel it is more truthful to say, “It is what you make it,” and then work to create the best outcome you can. Never give up!

Words or phrases you overuse:

I used to overuse the phrase: “I’m sorry.” I would catch myself saying it when what I really meant was, “Thank you for…” or “I empathize with what you are going through…” or “What can I do to help?” or all three (i.e. “I’m sorry that happened to you…” instead of “Thank you for sharing your story with me. That took a lot of courage and I can see why you are upset. What can I do to help?”). I think most people, especially victims, appreciate precision of language, so I always try to communicate with feeling, even if it takes a little more effort.

What was the last thing you did that really made your boss proud of you?

Sheriff Roberson never misses an opportunity to tell his staff he appreciates them. It feels good to work in an environment where hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Most recently, Sheriff Roberson praised the work our staff does with Special Olympics NC. He tells me he is proud of me for the work I do with the media and our community partners to keep residents safe and informed. Sheriff Roberson went above and beyond to show me he was proud of me by attending my graduation ceremony when I completed Law Enforcement Leadership & Management School and earned my Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate. Those accomplishments were important milestones for me, and it means a lot to have his support.

If money weren’t an object, but you still had to work, what would your job be?

Writing books and doing freelance photography. (It’s all part of the retirement plan!)

One day, when you have time, what would you like to learn how to do?

I’m always making time to learn new things, but next on my agenda is… stitching! I’m working my way through the textile arts of sewing, knitting, embroidery, crochet, and so on. One day I’d like to say I handmade my outfit head-to-toe (without it looking painfully obvious, of course).

Something not many people know you collect is?

Journals. I am an avid journal keeper and always keep an eye out for interesting styles!

What you like best (or least) about where you live now:

I love the seclusion and living so close to nature. The land is beautiful and the woods are welcoming all times of year. As an introvert, it is an excellent space to recharge and relax.

Favorite place to eat:

On duty: Compadres in Pittsboro. I visit them at least once a week and their staff knows my usual by heart (Compadres Special, medium, no mushrooms) and always deliver great service.

Off duty: A cozy little diner on Zoo Parkway in Asheboro called Everything Under the Bun. I haven’t found a single item on the menu that isn’t delicious and their sweet potato fries are top notch. (Check them out next time you are visiting the North Carolina Zoo!)

The best advice you ever got was:

“Learn all you can, while you can.” My grandmother always encouraged me to challenge myself and pursue an education. She was illiterate until her death, and one of her greatest regrets in life was not being able to read or write. In her honor, I never pass up a learning opportunity, even if it’s outside my comfort zone.

Favorite season?

Autumn, of course! Sweater weather, perfect temperature for walks, pumpkin spice everything, plus I love watching the leaves change.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to tell someone?

That their child is deceased. Death notifications are a common responsibility for law enforcement, but it never gets any easier. It is especially painful to convey the news to parents who never expected to lose a loved one so young.

What talent do you wish you had?

I wish I could be a really confident, effective public speaker — but I’m still working on that!

If you could create one rule that all society had to live by, what would it be?

To be kind to one another. There are times when we need to hold individuals accountable for their actions, but we can still treat them with kindness and respect.

Describe your life philosophy in six words or less:

Dream big. Grow daily. Make time.

If you could instantly learn one language, which would it be?

Sign language.

What advice would you give your younger self?

You cannot control the happiness of others. However, you can do what makes YOU happy and let your positive attitude set an example for them to follow.

What historic era would you like to visit?

The Victorian Era (1837-1901) for the reading, rapid change, and fashion! There was widespread political and social change, innovation, and reform (not unlike our own era). Victorians were avid readers and campaigned for free education for all children. The first telegraph was sent, the first telephone call was placed, and Joseph Pulitzer (the “Father of Journalism”) was born. Not to mention, Charles Dickens published his most beloved literary works during these years. ... What a time to be alive!

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