By Dick Cook
ALTAMONT, Tenn. —; Brent Myers was appointed last year to fill out the unexpired term of Robert Meeks. Last week, he was elected over five opponents to a four-year term. His top priority, he says, will be to continue to battle drugs and reduce crime.
Q: How much of an advantage was incumbency in last week’s election?
A: It was a great advantage. I thought from the very beginning, if I got appointed and worked hard, it would be very beneficial. I’m not really going to do anything different today than I’ve done over the last eight months.
Q: You’ve served as an officer elsewhere and as a chief in Whitwell. How is being a sheriff of a mountainous, rural county different from being chief in Whitwell?
A: There’s a lot more administrative responsibilities and a lot more employees that I’m responsible for.
There are a lot of things to learn, like laws dealing with the jail. It’s not that there are a lot of new laws, it’s just that things at the jail change on a daily basis, and you’ve got to deal with it. I’ve got 35 to 40 prisoners back there and things have to be looked after.
Q: What are some of the changes you’ve made as sheriff?
A: The most important thing I’ve done is to make sure that deputies are visible in the community. I’ve marked all the cars. When I got here only two had light bars on top. Now people can see the presence of law enforcement, and I think that’s important. Our burglary rate is down 82 percent and the theft rate is down 67 percent. If they weren’t out there working, we couldn’t get the job done.
Officers are also more involved in community events. They are at ball games and school functions. We’ve also started some programs with the elderly and disabled.
One big change I made was making Lonnie Cleek my chief deputy. I can’t think of a better man for the job. He’s real good with training young officers.
Q: What changes do you want to make in the next four years?
A: I want to make sure that we have well-trained deputies so they can handle most any situation. The state requires each deputy to have 40 in-service hours each year. We’re going to double that to 80.
The extra training is available through state programs at no cost to the taxpayer.
Q: What kind of a liability does the current jail present?
A: The way this jail is designed it’s difficult to monitor. There’s no way you can see the whole jail from any one point, and prisoners know that. They can do something in 10 seconds, and we wouldn’t be able to pick up on it. If somebody gets sick during the night, we might not be aware of it.
Q: How long will you serve as sheriff? Do you have higher political aspirations?
A: I don’t know how long. I don’t have any higher political aspirations. I live here and I’m raising my family here and this is where I want to work.
I know it might sound like a politician speaking, but everybody who lives here, they are important to me.
E-mail Dick Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org