The Fine Arts Center at Bradley Central High School was filled nearly to capacity on Saturday as close to 600 people gathered to witness Steve Lawson be sworn in as Bradley County’s sheriff.
Steve Lawson was sworn in Saturday morning as Bradley County’s sheriff.
The Fine Arts Center at Bradley Central High School was filled nearly to capacity as close to 600 people gathered to witness the swearing-in ceremony.
The printed program for the event paid tribute to Lawson with his photo on the front cover, while his father, the late Lamar Lawson, was pictured on the back cover. Lamar Lawson served as Bradley County’s sheriff from 1974 to 1980.
Pastor James Sears, lead pastor of Mount Olive Ministries, served as master of ceremonies. Throughout the event, music was presented by Michelle Augustine and Charity Baggett of Mount Olive Ministries. Isaac Augustine led the Pledge of Allegiance.
“This is a special day, a special time, Steve, in your life,” said Pastor Gary Sears of Mount Olive Ministries. He added Lawson’s journey to public office has been a long one “but you have arrived.”
Sears extended thanks from Lawson to all those who supported him in his campaign. Sears noted he has watched Lawson’s faithfulness and the faithfulness of his supporters, as well as Lawson’s love and desire to see things better for Bradley County.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann was next to speak, congratulating Lawson “on a race well run” and "I pledge my steadfast support to you.” Fleischmann also said he “grew up in an America’ where he was taught to show law enforcement officers respect and kindness.
“Some in America have lost their way in that regard,” Fleischmann said, but added in Bradley County “we cherish and respect our law enforcement.”
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland also spoke during the ceremony, noting his long association with Lawson and with Lawson’s father. Rowland said most of those present for the ceremony probably never met Lamar Lawson, but he harkened back to “old western days” when there were “lawmen.”
“Sheriff Lawson was a lawman,” Rowland said. “Lamar Lawson set the pace with what’s happening today with Steve. You’ve got some big shoes to fill, Steve. I have all the confidence in the world in you.”
Rowland noted if Lawson is “half the sheriff your dad was” he would do a fine job. “I wish you godspeed; the best of luck,” Rowland said.
During the ceremony, Lawson presented Rowland with the Honorary Deputy Sheriff For Life Award, saying he wanted to honor Rowland for all he has done over the years to make the community a safe place to live and work.
Former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp also offered remarks, saying he is honored to be invited to participate in the ceremony and noted seeing the audience “reminds me of the goodness of Cleveland and Bradley County.” It is “a good and decent place with these amazing people.”
There was a brief interruption during the ceremony when a doctor was called for and a BCSO deputy and, later, a Tennessee Highway Patrolman came in to ask for an audience member to come with them. As the crowd began to murmur with concern, Wamp asked Gary Sears to return to the podium and say a prayer regarding the unknown situation.
Wamp then continued his comments, discussing the importance of restoring confidence in government, pointing to Rowland as an example of a leader “who restores our confidence.”
“It takes integrity. It takes virtue. It takes honor. It takes focus,” he said. “This is a new day.”
Following the singing of the hymn “In Christ Alone,” Lawson was presented his certificate of election by Bradley County Election Commissioner Duane Gilbert.
“This is as official as it gets, Sheriff,” Gilbert said.
Judge Mike Sharp administered the Oath of Sheriff, noting it is a “great honor and privilege” and committed to pray for Lawson every day.
Looking out over the audience, Lawson told his deputies, “I want you to know you have my respect” and “we start on Day One.”
Lawson said he has worked for sheriffs over the years and believes in communication, noting he plans to let his command staff run their divisions, “but I’ll always be an ear for you.”
“I respect each of you. I will always respect you. I want you to respect each other,” Lawson said. “We’re working together. I believe in you and I want to win your respect.”
Lawson added he campaigned on leading by example and that’s what he plans to do. “Here we go, and I can’t wait!”
Criminal Court Judge Andrew Freiberg administered the Oath of Deputy Sheriff to Lawson’s Command Staff:
• Cassandra Stone – Director of Finance
• Lewis Jones – Director of Administration
• Gabe Thomas – Captain of Support Services Division
• Alan Walsh – Captain of Corrections Division
• Bill Dyer – Captain of Judicial Services Division
• John Stone – Captain of Criminal Investigation Division
• Jon Collins – Captain of Patrol Division
• Brian Smith – Chief Deputy
Circuit Court Judge Larry Puckett administered both the Oath of Deputy Sheriff to BCSO officers in attendance and the Oath of Office to Bradley County constables in attendance at the ceremony.
A reception followed in the school cafeteria.
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