“Bradley-1 is in service.”
Sheriff Eric Watson took his oath of office Sunday afternoon and began his duties as the sheriff of Bradley County at midnight.
Officials were busy painting and instituting change earlier today as the new sheriff immediately went into overdrive.
During his speech after receiving his charge and oath, Watson mentioned that deputies would “see a difference in their paycheck,” as he had increased salaries effective at midnight.
“A new direction and a new spirit,” were the words of Watson as he campaigned for the office. The Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Color Guard presented the flags and posted the colors for the ceremony.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland opened the ceremony at North Cleveland Church of God.
Pastor Mitch Maloney offered prayer for the service and the future of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.
State Sen. Mike Bell and Rep. Kevin Brooks presented the new sheriff and his undersheriff, Brian Smith, with flags that have flown over the Capitol in Nashville.
Then it was time for the patriotic verses by Danny Murray and the Voices of Lee.
“From the White House, to “Good Morning America” … from my house to your house. Would you welcome the world-famous Danny Murray and the Voices of Lee?” Rowland invited attendees as he introduced the group.
After song, keynote speaker TBI Director Mark Gwyn addressed the deputies and other personnel who would be taking their oaths.
“You have a leader now who believes in doing the right thing … and he will do that. Never tarnish that badge,” Gwyn said.
“It’s about protecting the rights and freedom of the citizens of Bradley County. That’s what it’s all about.”
Gwyn reflected on low pay for law enforcement and bringing parity to public safety.
Gwyn told Watson, “You are now their leader.”
“This is a great looking staff,” Gwyn stated, calling the personnel some of the best in the USA.
“The task at hand, sheriff, is to make sure they stay the best in the country … to provide them the resources they need. It all starts with you. They see you … how you treat them is how they will treat the citizens of Bradley County,” Gwyn said.
Watson was sworn into office by the Honorable Dewayne Bunch prior to his deputies and administration taking their oaths.
Former Sheriffs Tim Gobble, Robert Lawson and Dan Gilley led the charges to the command staff, deputies and Watson.
“I thank God above for giving me the strength, courage and wisdom to run for this office,” Watson said.
He then acknowledged and thanked his family for their support.
“Tonight, at midnight, a new spirit, a new direction will happen,” Watson said, explaining his vision.
“We are going back to a day when a deputy sheriff could do it all,” Watson said, noting too much has been lost in specialized service.
Watson then called his command staff, the “A” team, to stand behind him as he addressed his deputies.
Much like his first days in office as state representative of the 22nd District, Watson made a bold statement to the deputies and audience.
“You will see what we will stand for during this administration,” Watson said
“First and foremost, we believe in God. If there is an officer in this staff … listen to me good … and you all want to have prayer at roll call, you are gonna have prayer. If there is an officer who doesn’t like it, you can go outside and wait till everybody else gets finished. We are going to respect what the United States stand for,” Watson said.
Honesty, integrity and efficiency were high points in his address.
“Fulfilling my promises to shift payroll resources, As of midnight tonight — most will realize a pay increase ...,” Watson said.
Watson said base salaries have been increased to retain highly trained deputies.
He said his new administration was able to do this by streamlining administration and shifting the resources for pay increases in hopes of gained retention of deputies.
“Our starting salaries are now competitive with surrounding agencies,” Watson said.
“For many years we have lost great employees, but that is going to change as of midnight tonight,” Watson added.
He also plans to implement a step plan.
“This will be achieved without additional funds or a tax increase. Each member of this administration has vowed to be a part of this new-spirited service to the officers in the field,” Watson said.
“The Sheriff’s Office belongs to the people, They expect a lot out of us,” he added.
“Look your best. Be your best. Do your best,” Watson charged his deputies in closing.
“God bless you and thank you.”
A small reception was held after the ceremony.