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ArlingtonPublic SafetyRetiring sheriff lauded for commitment to staff, incarcerees

Retiring sheriff lauded for commitment to staff, incarcerees

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“Quiet, taciturn, reserved and very, very unopinionated.”

That’s how former Arlington Sheriff James Gondles described incumbent Sheriff Beth Arthur during the latter’s Jan. 6 retirement ceremony.

“Well,” chuckled Gondles, who served in office from 1980-90 and now heads the American Correctional Association, maybe “that’s how she is when she’s asleep.”

Indeed, no one at the ceremony would have fallen for the line that Arthur is a shrinking violet. Having won six subsequent elections after first being appointed to the post in 2000, she’s perhaps earned the right to holding, and expressing, strong opinions.


Arthur announced in December that she would be stepping down after 22 years as sheriff and a total of 36 in the Sheriff’s Office. She has been succeeded by her chief deputy, Jose Quiroz, one of three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the post in a June primary. The general election is in November.

Gondles, who was sheriff when Arthur began her career in the office as a budget and human-resources specialist, was not the lone predecessor to offers remarks. Also on hand was Thomas Faust, who served from 1990-2000 and recently was tapped as interim director of the District of Columbia Department of Corrections, a position he held from 2011-16.

“Truly the gold standard for sheriff in Arlington is Beth Arthur,” Faust said. “All I can say is ‘wow, what a career.'”

Faust praised Arthur’s “undying commitment – always fighting for the staff, always fighting for those who were in her care.”

It was Faust’s resignation in 2000 to take an outside job that led to Arthur (by then director of administration in the office) being appointed the first female sheriff in Virginia, breaking a line of males across the commonwealth snaking back through more than 350 years of history.

The appointment was made by the Circuit Court, one of whose members was Judge Joanne Alper.

“Give a woman a job, and she’ll do it,” said Alper, who served from 1998-2012 and bonded with Arthur over, among other things, their shared love of ice hockey.

Alper called Arthur “a force of nature,” and said that was most clear when, in office for just a few months, she had to face the impacts of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

A key responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office is courthouse security, and within 15 minutes of a plane hitting the Pentagon, “Beth had that courthouse cleared” so Sheriff’s Office personnel could be repositioned to address the unfolding situation just a mile or so away, Alper said.

“If anyone doubted her leadership ability before then, there was no doubt” after, said Alper.

Upon her retirement, Arthur was one of the 10 most senior sheriffs among the more than 120 holding the post across the commonwealth.

“She is respected . . . by all the sheriffs across the state,” said John Jones, executive director of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association.

Arthur’s no-nonsense style was appreciated by her counterparts. “She told you right from the gut,” said Jones, noting her work as president of the organization and service on its nominating committee.

“It’s going to leave a void in the fabric of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association,” Jones said of her departure.

County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey, Arlington Police Chief Andy Penn and Falls Church Police Chief Mary Gavin also were on hand to make remarks.

Despite the words of praise, not everyone has exclusively complimentary things to say about operation of the county jail (the other major responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office). Arthur and the office have come under fire from several sources, and the two candidates running against Quiroz (who has been endorsed by Arthur) in the Democratic primary have been critical, as well.

Arthur, however, expressed no regrets about how she has run her operation.
“We’ve come a long way,” she said, paying special tribute to the “amazing people” who worked in the office.

“They’re my people,” she said.

Many of those who end up incarcerated are not bad individuals, she said, merely those who made a mistake, and are deserving of being treated with dignity and respect.

“We try to offer them an opportunity to leave our jail in a better place,” she said.

Unlike Gondles and Faust, who found other positions upon retiring from office, Arthur at the moment has no plans for anything but relaxing and traveling with her husband, Joel Lovelace. They have two adult sons, who were ages six and three when their mother assumed office.

Former Arlington Sheriff James Gondles speaks at the retirement ceremony of Sheriff Beth Arthur on Jan. 6, 2023.
Former Arlington Sheriff Thomas Faust speaks at the retirement ceremony for Sheriff Beth Arthur on Jan. 6, 2023.
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