A 'Policeman's Policeman'

Jeremy Nash News-Herald.net

Loudon County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Tony Aikens has spent 30-plus years in law enforcement operating under a simple ideal — treat people the same way he wants to be treated.

“As a young police officer, of course, I’ve had to put a lot of people in jail,” Aikens said. “As an administrator you see the other side of that, and I’ve learned a lot being down here and obviously have mellowed out a lot and — but I just treat people how I want to be treated. I hope that I’ve made a lot of friends, and I’m going to miss law enforcement. I’ve been doing it for a long time but it’s just time to do something else.”

In January, Aikens will retire from LCSO to focus more on his recently approved full-time mayoral position in Lenoir City. He hopes to also spend more time with family, which was difficult when balancing a full-time law enforcement job and a part-time role as an elected official.

Aikens said his decision to move on from LCSO after decades of employment had been on his mind since April when his wife, Brenda Aikens, died after a four-year fight with cancer.

“I’ve got a beautiful granddaughter and two other — actually I’ve got, I consider my nephew’s kids my grandkids even though they’re not,” Aikens said. “I have been committed for the last six years since being mayor serving the people of Lenoir City particularly but also being responsible for the county end. I’ve put in a lot of time in Lenoir City and I’m giving it my all and you can see that by the progress that’s being made over there.”
Sheriff Tim Guider, who has known Aikens for 35 years, said his presence will be missed at the office.
“He’s been able to face — I’ve never known him to be fearful, but he’s been able to face the bad-guy tough situations without fear, at least he hasn’t shown it,” Guider said. “He meets the challenge head on and he’s always done that in anything he’s ever tried to do and everything he’s attempted to do and I think that’s what makes him so successful.”
Guider said he has not determined a replacement for Aikens, but noted there would be “big shoes to fill.”
“I think we’ve made a good team, probably one of the — it would be hard-pressed to find a longer-lasting sheriff and chief deputy relationship,” Guider said. “But it’s going to be big shoes to fill.”
Guider brought Aikens on board as chief deputy in April 1991.

Reflecting on a career

Aikens’ law enforcement career has been inside Loudon County, dating back to his start in the LCSO reserves as an 18-year-old. Now 58, he said he always had a desire to serve his community.
“It was just something I always wanted to do and it was just a passion of mine,” Aikens said. “I went to work for the jail under the Guy Russell administration. Guy was the sheriff in 1974-1976. Actually started out in what used to be called the auxiliary police, which is now the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office reserves, and went to work for Guy.”
He stayed with the sheriff’s office until 1978, when he took employment at Lenoir City Police Department. During his time there, he served as police chief from 1989-91 before rejoining the sheriff’s office.
“When I was elected and took office in September of ‘90, as I mentioned, after Chief (Bill) Brown had passed, Tony was made chief of police and so he — we had talked about him coming to be my chief deputy, but he felt like he needed to stay on with the city a little bit longer,” Guider said. “I kind of held that position open for a little while until it was decided and he decided that, yeah, he would like to come down and join me.”
Before taking office as sheriff, Guider worked under Aikens in Lenoir City as a midnight shift sergeant in the ‘80s. Guider said he kept the position open because he trusted Aikens’ opinion.
“Tony Aikens is probably — he’s ... a policeman’s policeman,” Guider said.
Aikens said one accomplishment he’ll remember is playing a role in bringing the sheriff’s office to a “different level.”
“When (Guider) took office, not the men and the women of the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office, but the administration (previously) had been corrupt and that’s not fiction, that’s a true story,” Aikens said. “We brought the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office up to standards that it needs to be. We’ve got better-trained personnel. ... Used to when we started out we had to call Blount County Sheriff’s Office for just about everything we did if we had a major crime and now it’s not that way.
“I mean obviously they’re there to assist, along with Knox County, any time we need them (to) investigate — we’re to the level that we can investigate those murders, we can investigate those rapes if we have them,” he added.
A challenge he remembers to this day is the fatal shooting of Deputy Jason Scott, who died in 2004 after responding to a domestic call.
“Anytime you answer a domestic call you never know what you’re walking in on and that’s obviously how Jason Scott was murdered,” Aikens said. “He was answering a domestic call and was killed moments after he stepped out of his patrol car. That was a very, very — I still have — I remember like it was yesterday. I was actually the backup car, I guess you’d say. There was three deputies there at the time that answered the call because it was shift change and I was on the phone talking to (the late Lenoir City Judge) Terry Vann when I got the call sitting in front of my house at 8 o’clock in the morning and I never will forget it.
“... I mean when it happened obviously it was tragic, but the time after that it was very hard on everyone that worked here at the time,” he added.

Focusing as mayor

Aikens said now is the time to take office as a full-time mayor because of Lenoir City’s growth.
“My responsibility in Lenoir City is to try to lead council the way I think that Lenoir City should be led,” he said. “So far they have agreed with me. Now that doesn’t mean that I’m right every time. I listen to their ideas as well as they listen to mine, but just the things that’s going on — the grant money that we’ve received. ... I can never remember when Lenoir City has received so much grant money and the building that’s going on.”
The Lenoir City native has had involvement in city government dating back to 1978. He served on Lenoir City Council from 2003-10 before deciding to run against Joe Sims, who he called a “corrupt politician.” Aikens replaced former Mayor Matt Brookshire, who decided to not run again.
“It was a very nasty race,” Aikens said. “A lot of untruths were told. Some mailers had went out about myself and some things that had gone on here at the sheriff’s office several years before that. Just a lot of untruths and just a lot of nasty politics that you see on the national level today, some of that garbage and that was what it was, it was garbage. Obviously, the people didn’t believe any of it and knew what they was dealing with and the rest was history.”
Aikens’ salary under a full-time position will be $68,500 with no benefits. As a part-time mayor, he had been making $600 a month. Council approved a resolution during the Oct. 24 meeting.
“Before I was mayor, you had dissension,” he said. “Council and the mayor’s office was divided. I know, I was on council, and they were divided. It can’t be all one person’s play, it has to be a team effort, and when it’s a team effort working as a team you can get something done. If you’re constantly going into those council meetings and you’re divided you can’t get anything done. I could start naming names and throwing stones at other governments that’s close to us that can’t get anything done, but I’m not going to do that.
“We’re moving in Lenoir City forward in the right direction,” he added. “I’m excited to be just a small part of it.”