By Bonita Wilborn
To dispel any remaining myths concerning the situation of Nick Welden’s taking office early, we wanted to make this brief statement. Due to the fact that the state retirement system requires retirement to begin on the first day of the month, and due to a misunderstanding of specific regulations involving the new term’s start date being January 14, former DeKalb County Sheriff, Jimmy Harris’ term ended effective January 1, meaning that someone had to be in charge for the remaining two weeks of Harris’ term.
County Administrator, Matt Sharp explained, “Jimmy Harris is the first sheriff in the county who has retired under the state retirement system. The others have retired through the county.” He added, “If Harris had not retired effective January 1, he would have been paid on through to January 13, as is customary, and would have finished his term as sheriff. However, after looking into the regulations, we realized he couldn’t continue to be paid on to January 13 because employees can’t be paid after they retire.”
So, at 12:00 midnight, the hour that marked the change from December 31, 2018 to January 1, 2019, Governor Kay Ivey, the men in the photo above, and various witnesses were standing ready to see the swearing-in of the new sheriff and his command staff. When the clocked rolled over to 12:01am, Circuit Judge-elect, Andrew Hairston, swore-in Nick Welden as Sheriff then Welden in turn swore-in his staff. All of that was necessary in order for Welden to take charge and do the job he was elected for.
Of his staff, and the new staff members recently hired by the County Commission, Welden made the following statements:
“We have some true professionals that have gone above and beyond the last few days to get things done and have accomplished some very big goals. Matt Martin is our Chief Communications and EMA Liaison; he has gone above and beyond in the jail, and on the floor with communications. It’s taken us all. There were four 18-hour days in a row and a lot of behind the scene things that were going on. You can’t buy that with money, you handle it with professionalism. David Smith is the Chief Jail Administrator. He has made some outstanding choices. Tyler Pruitt is our Public Information Officer. We have utilized him very heavily in the past few days and we’re nowhere near done. Brad Gregg is our Chief Deputy. Brad has gone above and beyond. He’s taken the reigns and done a fantastic job.”
Welden further commented, “We’ve all made a very joint effort as a team to accomplish what we’ve had to accomplish in such a short time, but we’ve handled it very well and I’m proud and very impressed with all of them.”
Welden and his capable staff have already made some changes, which include: expansion of the Drug Task Force. He said, “We’ve already expanded it to three times the size that it was. So you’re really going to see a mass enforcement over the next few weeks. I feel that this is the most vital need in this county.”
On the administration side of things Welden said, “We’ve changed department heads. They have their way of running their department, and I support them and back them in their hiring and in who they need to let go.”
When asked about his long-term goals Welden commented, “We’re making a lot of changes right now. We have a new D.A.R.E program, which is more advanced and it will cover more grades and more children in every school. We’ll be making some necessary adjustments to the new pistol permits. We’ve hit the ground running. We’ve already made a very large drug arrest and we’re going to continue what we’re doing, pray hard, and move forward.”
Welden concluded by saying, “We ask the public to get behind us and support us, not judge our decisions, but that they seek trust in them and trust in us that the decisions we’ve made were for effective right reasons. We’ve made some big decisions, but they’ve been productive ones. Most importantly I ask that you pray for us. We’ve got good Godly men and women in this office. We’re going to move forward and we’re going to be professional.”