No post-election rift between local law enforcement

Vicky Newman News Herald

Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider said he will continue to work with all law enforcement agencies, including those local police officers who may have thrown their support to his opponent in primary elections earlier this month, and provide the same services to all constituents.

Meanwhile, however, Loudon city officials are taking a closer look at city policies surrounding the residence area of employees, including the part-time police officer who opposed incumbent Guider.

Questions arose at the May 10 workshop meeting concerning a post-election "rift" between the Loudon Police Department and Loudon County Sheriff's Department. The rift developed when Steve Cook, a part-time police officer, ran for Sheriff.  Two other police officers ran for elected positions as well.

In addition to Cook, Loudon Police Officer Mike Newman ran for Commissioner District 4, but was unsuccessful in that bid for office. Police officer Brian Jenkins ran for County Commissioner District 1, Seat A, and was successful.

Jenkins and Newman, when asked to respond to comments about a rift, said they were not aware of any conflict between police and sheriff's department. Jenkins said, "I don't know if there is or isn't a rift. I would challenge that. It puts me in an awkward position. I try to do a good job. I went out of my way to stay out of it.

Jenkins continued, "My reason for running for office nothing to do with sheriff department. I want to work with the sheriff. There were people who seemed to think they weren't being represented. Loudon is my home; I've been here forever, and I wanted to give back. It's small-town politics but that adds to the quirkiness."

Newman said, "If there is a conflict; I just try to keep out of the whole thing. ... The reason I ran for office was I felt nobody was doing anything about the schools, and I have two little girls. I ran because I thought I could help with the school thing. I am approachable and felt I had insight on what is needed because I've been around a lot. I thought I could make a difference."

Newman said he did not have anything against the Sheriff.  "I started my career there," he said. "My decision to run had nothing to do with them."

Concerning the issue of part-time officers living outside the service area, Lynn Mills, city manager, said the residence policy was discussed May 17 in an executive session of the regular council meeting.

During the May 10 discussion Councilman Lewis "Charlie Brown" Garner had questioned Loudon Police Chief James "Bear" Webb about part-time police officers who lived outside the service area established by city policy.

Webb had responded that he did not believe the policy applied to part-time employees. 

Mills explained that the service area for employee residency is the LUB utility district, which goes beyond Loudon city boundaries, almost to the Monroe County line and to Vonore.

Garner later said two part-time officers lived outside the service area - Cook and officer Ken DeBoer, but Garner conceded that because the service area is the city's utility district, the policy itself may need to be altered. "You have people that live over by the Justice Center that are outside the district," Garner said.

After elections, some fence mending may be warranted, some council members feel.

Sheriff Guider said, ""My philosophy and career has been built on getting along with law enforcement agencies. I pride myself on my reputation. As far as cooperation, the Sheriff's Department is there for anybody needing services in the county. I don't know particularly why the majority, or why it seemed several people at the (Loudon) police department were for my opponent, but that is their prerogative. It would not influence me as far as willingness. I will work with anyone. I think our reputation speaks for itself, but it is the prerogative for each individual to be for whoever they want to be for."