Early voting for Orange County’s new sheriff starts Thursday, and current Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass says he is casting his vote for candidate Charles Blackwood.

The run-off race for sheriff has Blackwood, a 32-year veteran and retiree of the Sherriff’s Office, facing fellow Democrat David Caldwell, Jr., now community organizer for Rogers Road and also a retiree of the department after 22 years, in the Second Primary.

Blackwood received the highest total in the May 6 primary with 30.34 percent of the vote; Caldwell, Jr. received 29.98 percent, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

Despite Caldwell Jr.’s two decades of experience, Pendergrass feels Blackwood is a better fit, saying Blackwood has succeeded in working in “every area of responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office.”

“Charles Blackwood has come through the ranks and the different facets of duties and done a great job, Pendergrass said. “I think he’s a candidate who is really a people’s person and Charles is my choice of the two. Not any disrespect to Lieutenant Caldwell.”

Pendergrass told WCHL he was also among six initial candidates vying to be sheriff when he won the 1982 election that named him the county’s top lawman.

After working 58 years and serving over three decades as Orange County’s Sheriff, Pendergrass says he’ll now have to find a new job to keep him occupied.

Before he calls it quits, however, Pendergrass has some advice for the new guy in charge.

“You may be elected as sheriff to serve the people of Orange County but it’s their office. And they are the people who we must look after in all areas. Whatever problem a person has we have to take their problem to heart and we have to go forth and do everything we can 24/7, 365 because we are their servants.”