With the addition of Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Allen Branum to the list on Monday, the Hamilton County Commission will have 10 applicants to choose from when they select an interim sheriff on March 5.
“We’ll interview them all,” County Commissioner Curtis Adams said.
The application period for the interim sheriff position closed Monday at 4 p.m. Commissioners will begin interviews Thursday at 9 a.m.
Chief Branum joined Tom Ratledge, William Curtis, sheriff’s Sgt. Tim Akins, Orin Sprague, Roy Phillips, James Durkan, Richard Thurman, sheriff’s Lt. Lenda Clark and Dave Alverson in seeking the position, according to commission staff.
The chief deputy said he struggled with the decision to put his name in, but ultimately decided it was the thing to do.
“I felt like I’ve basically been doing the job,” he said.
The sheriff’s position came open following the Feb. 6 resignation of former Sheriff Billy Long. Mr. Long faces federal extortion, money laundering, gun and drug charges.
The interim will serve until a new sheriff, to be elected Aug. 7, takes over. The commission will require the interim to promise not to run in the election.
Commission Chairman Bill Hullander said it was somewhat surprising to see Chief Branum’s name on the list.
“A lot of folks were anticipating him to run for sheriff,” he said.
Chief Branum said he was “not focusing past August right now.” He said not being a part of a new administration is “a concern, but that’s entirely to do with Allen Branum, not this office.”
Mr. Hullander said it may be difficult to get five commissioners to agree on one of the 10 candidates.
“We may have to vote three or four times,” he said.
Former Sheriff John Cupp, who had earlier indicated he would seek the interim position, did not put in an application. He could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
Sgt. Akins, who currently serves as booking supervisor at the Hamilton County Jail, said he thinks the interim sheriff should come from the sheriff’s department.
“It’s time we did some healing around here and kept things stable,” he said.
Sgt. Akins said he has been with the department since 1996.
Mr. Ratledge, a former lieutenant who now works part time helping the sheriff’s department transport prisoners, said he wants to restore trust between the department’s officers and the public. He retired from the sheriff’s department last year, he said.
“It was my whole adult life,” Mr. Ratledge said. “It just tore me apart to see what’s happened to that department.”
Lt. Clark serves as administrative lieutenant over communications and criminal records. She and Sgt. Akins said they were not planning any major changes in the department.
Mr. Thurman and Mr. Alverson are both former chief deputies in the sheriff’s department. The two former chief deputies unsuccessfully ran for sheriff in 2002 and 2006, respectively.
Mr. Sprague and Mr. Curtis are each former Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. Several commissioners have said their ideal candidate for interim would be a former FBI agent or U.S. marshal.
Mr. Phillips is a former Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper.
Mr. Durkan is a former head of security for Mohawk Industries, according to his application.