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Looking forward to retirement

Reece says goodbye to law enforcement after 38 years of service.

By Tamas Mondovics

After nearly four decades of serving his community in a variety of law enforcement functions, three-term Johnson County Sheriff Mike Reece says goodbye to law enforcement next month.

“I am very proud and thankful of the staff I have been able to lead during these 12 years and to work alongside many of them for a lot longer during my 38 years of law enforcement,” Reece said, just days following Johnson County’s general election on Thursday, August 2, 2018.

After serving as Sheriff for three terms, incumbent Reece was defeated by Eddie Tester, a veteran law enforcement officer, who has served as a Tennessee State Trooper for the past 18 years. Tester received 77 percent of the vote and successfully ensured his place as future Sheriff of Johnson County. While Reece emphasized that timing is everything and that he is looking forward to retirement, spending time with family and remaining active in his community, the longtime lawman leaves a big shoe for Tester to fill.

For the first four years, Reece is credited with an improved jail rating; increase revenue for the county and work of maintaining a strong, well-trained staff. Since his election as Sheriff, Reece focused his priority on investigating the high number of open cases as well as drug enforcement issues. Reece was the first to apply for medical reimbursement for State inmates and has continued this effort throughout his 12 years as Sheriff.

“I am proud of getting back pay for a year prior,” he said adding, “It is a significant amount of money.”

He has also helped many agencies in the community through inmate labor including the expansion to the Sheriff’s Department to allow housing of 9-1-1 and Emergency management under one roof and a training and operations room.

“We focused on keeping the maximum number of inmates, which resulted in an astounding increase in the County’s budget,” Reece added. “The money the jail generated helped to fund other offices and county needs where there was no money.”

“As it is the case across the state and the nation, budget issues affect every department,” Reece said. “You have to have the same number of employees in the jail whether you have 40 inmates or 115. It is mandated according to the capacity the jail can hold. Our staff worked extra hard, so did I to be successful in this goal.”Reece added, “County Commissioners were very thankful during the first years, and then they seemed just to expect that we would continue this with no money coming back to the jail for employees.”

In 2014, Reece was elected as the first third-term Sheriff, since the 4-year terms began nearly 40 years ago. “This means a great deal to me, my family and our department,” he said. During his time as Sheriff, the JCSO staff completed many specialized training including Joe Woodard, Chief Deputy’s invitation to and completion of the first ever TBI Training Academy Tennessee had to offer. “That says a lot about our county,” he said. “I always encouraged our officers to be the very best they could be and encouraged training opportunities.”

During all these years and especially the past 12 years as Sheriff, Reece went on many calls; some he said was very heartbreaking and changed him forever as he had to deliver devastating news to families and by following the law, “make decisions and take actions that were very difficult.”

Reece emphasized that over the years his office had many challenges and hurdles like working within a low budget, people being trained and leaving for better opportunities and lack of the general public’s knowledge of how the Sheriff’s Department operates, adding that the guidelines and mandates are not optional and leave no room for error.

“There are some things people think are the Sheriff’s decision or choice and although he takes responsibility, he actually has no authority in them at all,” he said. “It is also difficult for officers who work hard, to do a great job and receive criticism instead of praise.”

Reece wishes the Sheriff’s Department and New Sheriff much growth and success and mainly safety for all officers and staff and, of course, the community. “I am very thankful for the opportunity the citizens of Johnson County gave me to serve as Sheriff for the past 12 years. It has been an honor.”

Note From The Tomahawk Editor:
The Tomahawk wishes to express its sincere appreciation and gratitude for the service provided by Sheriff Reece. His leadership has led the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office for many years, and the success of the department is a direct result of his efforts and dedication. Sheriff Reece’s commitment to quality and professional integrity has set the bar for future leadership positions. Thank you, Sheriff Reece, enjoy every minute of your retirement, and we know your legacy of kindness, respect, and integrity lives on in Johnson County.

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