Octavia Johnson

About Octavia Johnson

Octavia Johnson was elected Sheriff of Roanoke City, November 2005. She began her first term January 1, 2006. Octavia completed her second term and retired from the Sheriff’s Office December 31, 2013. Octavia was the first African American and the first woman elected Sheriff of Roanoke City.

Octavia was born and raised in Elk Creek, Virginia in Grayson County. She is a graduate of Wytheville Community College with an Associates of Applied Science degree in Police Science and certificates in Law Enforcement and Corrections. Octavia has called Roanoke home since 1975. She worked as a Teacher’s Aide until 1979. In the same year, Octavia, was appointed Deputy Sheriff by Sheriff Alvin Hudson. 

While serving with the department, Sheriff Johnson completed certification training in Basic Jailor and Courtroom Security and Basic Law Enforcement. In 2004 she retired with 25 years of dedicated service spanning the jail, court services and civil process.

Sheriff Johnson was responsible for the orderly operation and management of the Roanoke City Jail; for providing courthouse and courtroom security for local District and Circuit Courts; and for the service of all civil process in the City of Roanoke. Sheriff Johnson managed a staff of approximately 250 deputies and civilians and administered a budget of 16 million dollars.

Sheriff Johnson retired December 2013. 

Octavia Johnson was the Republican Candidate for the Special Election for the House of Delegates, 11th District, January 7, 2014. 

After her run for Delegate, Octavia began to enjoy her retirement; spending time with her husband, Mark Neese. Visited family in other states. Hosted family gatherings in her home. Took vacations with her husband to the beach. Octavia and Mark’s greatest joy was caring for their Great-nieces, Jesara, 5 and Lamauri, 3. Octavia continues to care for “the girls”, while their mother is at work.

Octavia Johnson was married to Mark K. Neese for 26 years. Before his passing on May 26, 2020; Mark and Octavia renewed their vows on their 25th Anniversary, December 31, 2018.


  • National Sheriff’s Institute, 90th Session, Boulder, Colorado, 2006
  • Virginia Sheriff’s Association, Sheriffs School
  • Basic Jailor and Courtroom Security, Certificate
  • Basic Law Enforcement, Certificate


  • Honorary Doctorate, Bethlehem Bible College and Seminary and Outreach Center, 2011
  • Martin Luther King Drum Major Award for Justice, Roanoke Southern Christian Leadership Conference 2009
  • Citizen of the Year Award, Roanoke Branch NAACP, 2007
  • Trail Blazer Award, Harrison Museum of African American Culture 2007
  • African-American Achievement Award, TAP,  2007
  • Woman of Achievement Award for Government and Politics, YWCA 2006


  • Roanoke Valley Republican Women
  • MAPS Women’s Conference
  • Son of God Ministry
  • Son of God Ministry, Women’s Ministry Leader


  • Sheriff Johnson created the Professional Standards Unit, to ensure that the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office operates at the highest level of service and care. The Professional Standards Unit incorporates: Training, Accreditation,  PREA and Investigations.
  • Realigned units and divisions within the Sheriff’s Office along functional lines to improve efficiency.
  • Challenged tradition and confronted gender bias in the workplace. When it became evident that women and minorities were at an unfair disadvantage testing for promotions, Sheriff Johnson worked with Human Resources to level the playing field.
  • Created a Use of Force Committee to review and investigate all Use of Force incidents.
  • Updated radios to improve safety of deputies and staff
  • Purchased intermediate weapons, OC spry, Blast Bang, and the Bandit;

Deputies were trained and certified in the use of all weapons.

  • Created a training station with computers where deputies and staff have access to training and testing online.
  • Equipped Civil Process deputies with cell phones to ensure a safer workday and raise their level of efficiency.
  • Replaced old metal detectors in the jail and courthouse with state of the art metal detectors to prevent the entrance of weapons into the facility
  • Established DMV Connect


  • Accreditation creates a greater public confidence in the Sheriff’s Office and diminishes vulnerability to civil law suits and costly settlements.
  • In 2013 Sheriff Johnson initiated Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission (VLEPSC) Accreditation. Adoption of quality policies and procedures that comply with professional standards. Underwent an intense audit and met all standards.
  • Underwent a three day American Correctional Association (ACA) audit and was awarded reaccreditation in 2012, 2009, 2006.
  • 2011 and 2008 underwent National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) audit. The Accreditation Committee evaluated Roanoke City Jail in compliance with NCCHC standards and awarded National Commission on Correctional Health Care Accreditation.
  • Department of Corrections (DOC) Life Health and Safety Inspection 
  • Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Inspection
  • US Marshal Inspection

Jail Facility Health and Safety Improvements

  • Computerized the visitation system reducing the check-in time from 10-15 minutes to 1-3 minutes thereby enhancing safety.
  • Acquired Language Line offering interpretation services for over 70 languages 24 hours a day seven days a week, addressing the growing diversity within our city population.
  • Installed additional security cameras in the jail, courts and the perimeter of the Sheriff’s Office-Jail-Courthouse complex.
  • Modernized Intake area to include a booking area with new LiveScan for inkless finger printing, computer, camera, and printer; two designated work stations at the front counter, additional counter space, ample storage and filing.
  • Updated Control Rooms from analog to a new digital camera system integrated with new digital intercom system, new 19” and 32” flat screen monitors give the staff the ability to view all cameras at all times, magnifying the safety and security of the jail.
  • Acquired the Guard 1 Plus, it simplifies the task of recording rounds which saves time.
  • Remodeled Watch Commanders Office and the Support Services office area to create a worker friendly space with convenient work stations.
  • Frosted Jail windows to deter illegal communication with inmates and reduce the entrance of contraband into the jail
  • Upgraded Storage areas to make the best use of the space in a safe and orderly fashion.
  • Constructed a gym at the Sheriff’s Office, available free of charge to the staff 24 hours a day seven days a week.
  • Renovated the Employee Break Room
  • Participated in the Virginia Tech Incenta Health Study an online incentive-based weight loss program.

Community Outreach

  • Founded Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office Citizens Academy
  • Established the Family Christmas Program to give children, with social or economic needs, an enjoyable Christmas experience.
  • Formed the Work Force Program, working with the City and Courts, to allow non-violent offenders to work off their sentence through community service. This program provides 20-30 people to work on local beautification projects.
  • Implemented Victim Information Notification Everyday, VINE, a free and anonymous service that keeps crime victims informed of the custody and court status of offenders over the telephone, through internet, or by e-mail.
  • Initiated the H.E.A.T. Help Eliminate Auto Theft program in coordination with Virginia State Police and Roanoke Police Department to educate citizens on auto theft prevention.
  • Inmate Work Crews provide a valuable community service to the city and non-profit organizations performing jobs including mowing, weed-eating, picking up trash, clearing debris, and general cleaning.
  • Neighborhood Meetings, deputies attend monthly neighborhood meetings providing information on a different issue each month.
  • All-Hazards Homeland Security Initiative Community Partnership and Awareness Training for Disaster Preparedness, April 9, 2011; sponsored by Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office and the National Sheriff’s Association. Citizens were trained to respond to a disaster in the absence of Public Safety agencies.
  • Established an annual charity golf tournament to raise funds for Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office DARE program taught by deputies in Roanoke City Elementary Schools. Funds are used to purchase supplies and incentives for DARE students.
  • Annual Christmas Luncheon and Awards Banquet
  • Annual Sheriff’s Office Chili Cook-off
  • Established Employee Investiture Ceremony, when employees are hired or re-appointed they are sworn in by a judge and welcomed by Sheriff Johnson.
  • Introduced Promotional Ceremony to honor newly promoted deputies