Local News

Tension high as new Franklin sheriff takes office

Posted November 28, 2014 6:45 p.m. EST
Updated November 29, 2014 7:38 a.m. EST

— There was bad blood in the campaign for Franklin County sheriff between incumbent Jerry Jones and his opponent, Kent Winstead.

Winstead won, but the distrust hasn’t ended.

“It's tougher as the days go on,” said Jones. “I went through a very negative campaign that was full of lies.”

Jones leaves office Monday, and an estimated 10 percent of his employees are going out with him.

That was the call of incoming Sheriff Kent Winstead.

Sheriff's employees work at the pleasure of the sheriff. Turnover is common, but the new sheriff is making staff changes that go deeper than recent years.

“It's difficult, but it's something that's necessary to put in place at that time,” Winstead said.

Jones acknowledges the tension and said it goes “well beyond” him. He said his successor is firing 11 sworn and non-sworn staff, including the lead drug investigator and jail administrator. Three will leave on their own.

“There are a lot of career people here,” Jones said.

Winstead stands by his decision.

“It's one of the hardest things I had to do, but I know the type of people I need to bring in to be successful,” he said. “They weren’t political decisions. They were based on qualifications and experience.”

Winstead, now the chief in Bunn, says he wants to change the law enforcement culture and improve relations with local departments.

“Talk is cheap, so it's hard for me to believe him,” Jones said.

The negative campaign is now spilling over into the transition.

“There are people here that are going to say this has been one of the worst and most unusual transitions that they've ever been through,” Jones said.

Despite the tension, Winstead says Franklin County will ultimately judge him on performance.

“You can't just bring anyone in,” he said. “You've got to bring well qualified people in with you.”