CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Capt. W.G. Campbell, a 22-year veteran of the Bradley County Sheriff's Office, has been appointed its interim deputy chief.
His appointment comes a week after the death of Chief Deputy Wayne Bird, 71, who was suffering from cancer and took leave to return to Florida in mid-March. Bird had served as chief deputy since 2010.
"I choose him [Campbell] for his experience and for his relations with county officials, teachers, students and the school board," Sheriff Jim Ruth said Monday.
Campbell was promoted to captain in 2011 and now heads the special operations division, which includes administration of school resource officers, traffic and public service duties, according to the Bradley County Sheriff's Office website.
He joined the sheriff's office as a full-time officer in 1994, having served as a reserve officer before that, Ruth said.
He has 16 years of supervisory experience and 13 years of command experience, plus he has won numerous awards for his service, Ruth said. Campbell is also one of the state's top crash investigators, he said.
Ruth said he did not plan to name Bird's replacement until after the Republican primary on May 6.
Ruth has been challenged by Rep. Eric Watson, of Cleveland, in the primary. No Democrat seeks to be the Bradley County sheriff this election cycle.
Campbell is "just filling a slot for now," Ruth said.
The Bradley County Sheriff's Office held a local memorial service for Bird, who was buried in Florida early last week.
In an earlier statement on Bird's medical leave, Ruth described his chief deputy as "a deeply spiritual man who, throughout his long distinguished career as a professional lawman, has his testimony as a faithful husband, father and grandfather."
Ruth's choice of Bird, a 50-year veteran of law enforcement veteran from Florida, as chief deputy came under attack from Watson in a recent debate between him and Ruth that was hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland.
Watson said Bird was chosen due to political favoritism resulting from Ruth's connection to his brother, Don Bird, a former two-term Tennessee House member who managed Ruth's campaign for sheriff.
"It's not a secret that [Ruth's] chief deputy is his campaign manager's brother: political payback bought by a politician," Watson said.
He said the chief deputy ought to be a local officer who knows and understands Bradley County.
Ruth brushed Watson's allegations aside and said Bird did the job he was hired to do.
Watson's position on Bird was "very typical of attacks on an incumbent sheriff," Ruth said.
"When you have nothing to attack them on, you attack their chief deputy, you attack their supposedly bad morale, you attack things like that," he said.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.