In a packed Bradley County courtroom Friday, Sheriff-elect Eric Watson introduced his command staff and formally announced his chief deputy to help him lead the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.
Brian Smith, former Cleveland Police Department detective and outgoing Bradley County commissioner, stood alongside Watson and received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Friday’s reception was a meet-and-greet opportunity for the command staff and the public.
Other command staff members include Director of Administration Arnold Botts, Captain of Criminal Investigations Steve Lawson, Director of Support Services Richard McCallister, Captain of Patrol Keith Edwards, Captain of Corrections and Judicial Services Gabe Thomas, and Smith as chief deputy. In this role, Smith will serve as No. 2 in command at the BCSO.
Watson said that including himself, his leadership team had 140 years of experience combined in the field of law enforcement.
He introduced Thomas first, citing Thomas’ training and certifications to lead the Judicial and Corrections areas of the Sheriff’s Office.
“First I want to thank God because this wouldn’t have been possible without him,” Thomas said.
Thomas also thanked his wife and family for their encouragement.
Botts followed suit as he was introduced as the director of Administration.
Botts said after much prayer and consultation with his wife and family, he decided to answer Watson and return to law enforcement.
“I give you my commitment to do the best I can do in the position you gave me. I consider this not a blessing, but a God-given opportunity. I am excited about being a part of providing the best service available for Bradley County,” Botts said.
He also asked for the community’s prayers and support for the Sheriff’s Office moving forward.
Watson explained the duties of each person as well as their academics and experience.
Edwards has served 31 years in virtually every capacity of the sheriff’s office, from patrol to criminal investigations, to school resource officer.
“I want to thank Sheriff Watson for having confidence in placing me in a position with a great responsibility,” Edwards said as he also thanked the residents of Bradley County.
Watson quipped … “Are you a Tennessee Vols fan?” Edwards answered “Absolutely.”
Watson said unofficially, that was a job requirement.
That was a question across the board to each member of his new leadership team, including McCallister, who has received multiple degrees and education from Georgia State University.
McCallister confided that he was “a Vols fan,” and has lived in neighboring Meigs County for a number of years before moving to Bradley County two years ago.
McCallister also thanked the sheriff-elect for his confidence in choosing him as the director of Support Services.
Watson said his administrative abilities along with a background in law will provide a great resource for the Sheriff’s Office.
Lawson is the current director of the 10th Judicial Drug Task Force.
“All I want out of this, is to do the best job I can do,” Lawson said.
“Steve Lawson will be coming home to the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office,” Watson said.
Lawson was captain of Detectives during the Tim Gobble administration. He has worked under five previous sheriffs.
Watson kept the introductions entertaining when he came to Smith’s announcement.
“Here’s the bomb now,” he stated, relating to the announcement the crowd had been waiting for. Smith stood to the ovation after Watson went over some of his law enforcement and 3rd District commission experience and education.
Smith said he thanked Watson for the confidence he showed in him in putting together the transition team and the opportunity as chief deputy.
“I look forward to standing side-by-side with the sheriff as we take the Sheriff’s Office in a new direction.”
An oath of office and swearing-in ceremony is set for Aug. 31, at 4 p.m. at the North Cleveland Church of God.
Watson said TBI Director Mark Gwynn will be on hand during the ceremony as well as entertainment from the Voices of Lee.