County Commission Makes Final Decision
The special called session of the Monroe County Commission to select a permanent sheriff of the county – at least for the coming 20 months – was a quick nine-minute affair that began at 7 p.m. on Tuesday evening.
And with a unanimous commission vote, acting sheriff Tommy Jones II became the Sheriff, taking the office, much to the approval of a crowd that filled the upper courtroom of the old county courthouse.
“I expect no major changes,” Jones told the BUZZ afterward. “We will continue to work, answering calls and addressing the issues that come before us.”
County attorney Jerome Melson opened the meeting with a brief explanation of the statutes governing the selection process of filling a vacancy of an elected office. He briefly nodded to the sole absent commissioner, Gudger Bill Bivins, and urged everyone to wish him well in recovering from recent health problems.
“The vacancy for the sheriff ’s office was instituted by litigation,” Melson said. “With the voiding of the sheriff ’s election by Judge Don Ash, this commission had 120 days from October 18 to fill the vacancy.”
Melson said applications for the sheriff ’s vacancy had been submitted to the Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training, or POST, Commission and on November 25, POST had notified the commission that it had identified eight individuals who were qualified to fill the vacancy.
The eight were listed on the agenda of the commission and included Jones, Bill Bivens, Bryan Graves, Albert Medina, Steve Parris, Algie Roberson, Lowell Russell, and Scott Shapiro.
“But there’s a provision in this process,” said Melson, “that before the vote comes for sheriff, registered voters of the county can submit by paper or by voice their own selection, who must then be nominated by a commission member. Or, a commission member can make a nomination. But the name submitted must be different than the eight listed on the agenda.”
“I nominate Randy White,” said Luke Bright, a local bondsman, who was sitting with the audience. Startled by Bright’s voice, which came from behind him, Melson said White was one of the eight listed on the agenda as qualified and therefore could not be submitted.
“He’s one of the eight,” said Melson, “so you can’t nominate him.”
The crowd differed and vocally disputed Melson’s words, who appeared suddenly confused and perplexed. After a few moments of fumbling with his paperwork, Melson realized the audience had caught his gaffe and he quickly asked for a commission nomination.
“We’ve had a lot of good applications for sheriff,” said Commissioner Harold Hawkins. “I hate the county commission has to be the one to pick the new sheriff. But I nominate Tommy Jones. He’s done a good job and made a lot of improvements at the jail. All you have to do is listen to a scanner to hear how well his officers are doing.”
No other commissioner offered a nomination.
And in order, without pause or sway, Wanda Alexander, Marty Allen, Mitch Ingram, Richard Kirkland, Bennie Moser, Bill Shadden, Paulette Summey, and Roger Thomas each voted with Hawkins and placed Jones at the post.
Kirkland called for adjournment and got it at 7:09 p.m