Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 10, 2013

Tazewell Sheriff Hieatt appointed to task force on school, campus safety

By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

TAZEWELL, Va. — A southwestern Virginia lawman, with an extensive background as a school resource officer, in community policing, rural law enforcement and administration has been selected by Gov. Bob McDonnell to serve on the newly-created Task Force on School and Campus Safety.

Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt is one of two sheriffs that McDonnell included in the 45-member task force that the governor asked to “review school safety, including  established policies and procedures, crisis and emergency management plans, threat assessment protocols, as well as best practices and identify resource challenges,” according to McDonnell’s press release that identified the task force members.

“The governor asked the Virginia Sheriff’s Association to submit some names of potential candidates for the task force,” Hieatt said. “My name was among the group of four that the association submitted. The governor selected Sheriff Mike Chapman of Loudoun County and me. I consider this a great honor. I would like to thank Gov. McDonnell and the Virginia Sheriff’s Association for their support and for recommending me to this important task force.” Hieatt pledged to work hard to represent Tazewell County and all of Southwest Virginia.

The task force is co-chaired by Marla Decker, secretary of public safety, Laura Fornash, secretary of education and Bill Hazel M.D., secretary of Health and Human Services. Other members include Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, several members of the Virginia General Assembly as well as representatives from the ranks of public and private education on all levels, psychological and medical professionals, representatives of the legal profession, campus police, student representatives and more.

Hieatt, 42, holds an undergraduate degree from Bluefield College and a master’s degree from Liberty University. He has served in law enforcement for 23 years, including 11 years as a school resource officer and D.A.R.E. officer. However, he believes that one factor is equally important as his educational and law enforcement experience.

“My wife and I have three children in Tazewell County public schools — one in elementary school, one in middle school and one in high school,” Hieatt said. “What the governor wants us to do is to look and see what needs to be done to keep our children safe. I’m excited to be part of this effort.”

Hieatt said that he and Major Harold Heatley, chief deputy of the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department recently presented their recommendations for school safety to the Tazewell County board of supervisors. “After what happened at the school shooting in Connecticut, myself and Major Heatley came up with ways to help. When we saw what happened in Connecticut, we came up with ideas we thought could help.

“Elementary school-aged students are the most vulnerable,” Hieatt said. “With middle school and high school students, when they hear shooting, they know to run in order to protect themselves, but elementary school students are more vulnerable.”

Hieatt said that he thinks he can bring vital insights to the task force. “We’ll have our first meeting at 1 p.m., on Monday,” Hieatt said. “I understand that after our first meeting, we will form three committees, one for mental health, one for education and one for public safety.” He said that he understands that he will be assigned to the education committee.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com