Hamilton County sheriff-elect Garrett appoints a new chief of staff, general counsel

Staff file photo / Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Austin Garrett.
Staff file photo / Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Austin Garrett.

Austin Garrett, who ran unopposed in the May and August elections to be the next Hamilton County sheriff, announced two new appointments to the Sheriff's Office on Monday.

Ron Bernard, a 15-year-veteran with the Sheriff's Office, was named the new chief of staff and will be responsible for the administrative part of the office such as human resources, finance and information technology, according to the Monday news release from the office.

"I am grateful that they have selected me, and I look forward to the challenges of the new position," Bernard told the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Monday by phone. "I look forward to working with the new sheriff."

Bernard is a former director of information technology and finance and has been with the Sheriff's Office since 2007. He began his tenure with the office as the information systems manager, according to the release. Bernard will replace G.A. "Gino" Bennett, who is retiring. Bernard's new salary will be $112,000 a year, an almost $5,000 increase from Bennett's $107,120.

"Sheriff-Elect Garrett is combining the current chief of staff position with the duties of the director of information technology and finance," office spokesman J. Matt Lea said in an email.

Garrett said in the news release that he has worked with Bernard for more than three years and observed his leadership, experience and judgment.

"Ron was responsible for leading the transition team over the Silverdale Detention Center, which will continue to be a monumental task into the near future," Garrett said in the release. "Throughout not only the Silverdale transition, but his tenure at the HCSO, Ron has shown extraordinary fiscal management and administrative acumen. I know he will continue to excel serving as my chief of staff and support me in accomplishing my vision for this agency as my administration moves forward."

Bernard is a Bryan College and Lakeland Community College alum and holds a bachelor's degree in business administration - organizational management and an associate's degree in applied business with a major in information systems.

The second appointment was for the newly vacated position of general counsel, to replace Coty Wamp, who won the general election to be the next Hamilton County district attorney on Thursday.

Brian Bush, who ran for City Court judge and lost to incumbent Sherry Paty, was named general counsel for the Sheriff's Office.

"I'm thrilled about the opportunity to serve as general counsel," Bush said via phone. "I believe that we can become the best sheriff's department in the state of Tennessee, and I look forward to the challenge."

The Chattanooga native received his law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law and a bachelor's degree in political science from Maryville College, in Maryville, Tennessee.

Bush has served as an assistant district attorney for the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office and most recently dealt with civil litigation cases at Spears, Moore, Rebman, & Williams firm.

Bush's salary will be $95,000, an almost $7,000 increase from Wamp's $88,280.

"The new salary reflects not only the new market rate for 2022, but also takes into account the many added duties the general counsel position has assumed since it was initially created in 2020," Lea said.

Garrett said in the news release that he is excited to have Bush join the executive staff.

"We look forward to the experience and skills he brings to our agency's operations," Garrett said in the release. "The role of general counsel is vital to the efficient and professional delivery of services we provide to the citizens of Hamilton County."

Bush will assume his new role with the Sheriff's Office immediately, while Bernard's position will begin Sept. 1.

Contact La Shawn Pagán at lpagan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.

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