By Dick Cook
Six candidates are on the ballot in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for Grundy County sheriff.
Election officials said no Republican qualified for the primary, so the Democratic winner will become the next sheriff.
Last August, the County Commission appointed Brent Myers to serve out the term of Robert Meeks, who stepped down because of illness, officials said.
Mr. Myers, who has been in law enforcement since 1991, is seeking election to a full, four-year term. His five opponents all have previous law enforcement experience.
They are Virgil McNeece, a Monteagle police officer; Roy Sain, an agent with the 12th Judicial District Drug Task Force; Billy D. Scissom, a former Grundy County sheriff’s deputy; Billy Sam Taylor, the manager of the Monteagle VFW; and Randy Taylor, a contractor and former law enforcement officer.
Mr. Myers, 32, said he wants to continue as sheriff because he was “born and raised in Grundy County, and I care about what happens in the county.”
He said that since he was appointed sheriff in August, the department has fought the methamphetamine problem aggressively and dramatically reduced burglaries and thefts. He said the department obtained three grants to update a records management system, pay overtime for officers working meth cases, and equip and train a special operations team.
“The jail will be the biggest issue affecting the next sheriff,” he said. “The problem is not so much building a new facility, it’s the extra $300,000 a year it would take to staff it and run it.”
Mr. Myers Mr. Myers said he is in favor of building a new jail but not until it is carefully considered.
“I’m not for anything that is going to cause a tax increase,” he said. “Right now is not the time to be worried about the jail.”
Randy Taylor, who said he has about 20 years of experience as a law enforcement officer and EMT, said he would push to build a new jail if elected. He said the federal government could force the county to build a jail.
“It’s dilapidated and falling apart,” Mr. Taylor said. “It was built for 21 and is housing 45 (prisoners).
“We are having to release people on probation who should be in jail. This whole catch-and-release system has turned into a big joke.”
Mr. Taylor criticized the commission for the way Mr. Myers was appointed to fill Mr. Meeks’ term. He said the commission should have interviewed all the candidates and checked work history, education and business experience.
Mr. Myers said his appointment was “handled just like any other office.”
“(Candidates for appointment) had plenty of opportunity to tell (commissioners) the things they wanted to tell them,” Mr. Myers said. “I don’t think anything at all was done wrong.”
Mr. Taylor said Mr. Myers mishandled the firing of long time Chief Deputy Berry Dooley last fall.
“Berry Dooley was fired because he got into an argument with the county mayor,” Mr. Taylor said. “I don’t like the way (Mr. Myers) treated that termination.”
Mr. Myers said Mr. Dooley was fired “for a specific incident,” not because of an argument with the mayor.
“It had nothing to do with the county mayor,” Mr. Myers said. “I don’t want to get involved in bashing Mr. Dooley.”
Mr. Sain, 59, has 28 years of law enforcement experience, including 13 years with the DTF. He said the sheriff can’t do much about the jail.
“It’s up to the mayor and commission,” Mr. Sain said.
He said that if elected, he would focus even more on drugs and the methamphetamine problem. He said 85 percent of all crime is in some way linked to drug abuse or making drugs.
“I just want for the people of Grundy County to have a better sheriff’s department,” Mr. Sain said. “I feel like I’ve got the background, experience and education to do it.”
Mr. McNeece said the biggest problem facing the next sheriff would be “the budget, money.”
“We need somebody that can work with the commissioners on the budget and not waste money,” Mr. McNeece said.
Mr. McNeece, who worked for the sheriff’s department from 1990-94, said he would work closely with federal and state agencies if elected.
“If you can’t work together, you’re fighting a losing battle,” he said.
Mr. Scissom worked for the sheriff’s department for 11 years before resigning.
“I want to build a department that the county can be proud of,” he said. “I don’t want people to have to lock their doors or lock themselves inside and be afraid every time they leave home when they come back there won’t be anything there.”
Mr. Scissom, 59, said he wants the voters to look at his record as a law man.
“I’m three steps ahead of the rest of the guys,” he said. “I know the county, I know the people and I know the job.”
Billy Sam Taylor could not be reached for comment.
E-mail Dick Cook at email@example.com