WALLACE — Duplin County’s top law enforcement officer for the last two decades announced in a press release on Feb. 5 that he will not seek to be re-elected to the office of sheriff in the 2022 election.

Blake Wallace, who was first elected sheriff in 2002, said he wanted to clear the way for newcomers who want to vie for the position.

“I decided to announce that I was not going to seek a sixth term as sheriff now, because filing for the next term begins in December 2021,” Wallace said Friday. “That’s less than ten months from now. The primary for the next election will be in March 2022, just over a year from now.”

Wallace said serving as sheriff has been “a true honor, and I look forward to completing my final term.”

Born in Pitt County, Wallace will be 56 years old when he retires as sheriff. HIs 34-year-long career in law enforcement has included stints as an Alcohol Law Enforcement agent and a special agent with the State Bureau of Investigation. He is a graduate of both The Citadel and the University of South Carolina. He only hinted at future plans, and said he had decided in early January, after “numerous conversations with my family” that he would retire at the end of his current term.

“I feel like it is the right time to pass the torch and to pursue other endeavors,” he said.

In addition to his law enforcement activities, Wallace counts among his proudest accomplishments the Sheriff’s Ball and the Duplin Foundation for Youth Advancement.

“Before COVID, we had the Sheriff’s Ball for almost 15 years and raised over $800,000 for the Duplin Foundation for Youth Advancement.”

“The foundation supports non-profit youth programs in Duplin County that improve the quality of life for young people,” he said. “An endowment has been established for the foundation so that financial support for these vital programs can continue indefinitely.”

So far, no candidates have come forward announcing an intention to run for sheriff in the 2022 election.

Michael Jaenicke can be reached at mjaenicke@ncweeklies.com