ERWIN — Interim Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley was sworn into office Tuesday afternoon before a crowd made up of county law enforcement officers, officials and residents.
After being sworn in by Judge David Shults, Hensley said he was honored to assume the office of Unicoi County Sheriff.
“I promise to do this job to the best of my ability,” Hensley told the crowd gathered in the Unicoi County Courthouse.
Hensley was appointed interim sheriff of Unicoi County at Monday’s meeting of the Unicoi County Commission and will serve in this capacity until the August general election, when the office of Unicoi County sheriff will appear on the ballot. Hensley said he intends to seek the office in the August election.
Following Tuesday’s ceremony, Hensley discussed his plans for the department. His main concern, he said, is to boost the morale of officers employed by the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department. He also said getting the department’s narcotics unit back up and running is imperative.
“Narcotics is the number one factor in a lot of the crimes being committed here in Unicoi County,” he said.
Hensley also said he intends to work closely with Unicoi County Director of Schools Denise Brown to ensure that the county’s children are in the safest possible environment when at school. This includes the implementation of a emergency operations plan for each school, with plans for different scenarios in the event of emergencies, Hensley said.
Hensley said UCSD programs already in place, such as the senior citizen call list and Vial of Life program, will continue. He added that he will maintain an “open-door policy” with residents of the county and will be available to citizens “24/7.”
“I plan on being a working sheriff,” Hensley said. “I’m going to be out in the public listening to law enforcement concerns. I’m going to work with all state, local and federal agencies, as well as out-of-state agencies. It’s imperative that the sheriff have a good relationship with these law enforcement agencies.”
Hensley said he plans on making budgetary cuts where he can to save money and will work to prepare a departmental budget that will be considered by county commissioners this summer.
“I will keep the taxpayers in mind when I do this, and I will spend within my budget,” Hensley said. “We’re a small county and over half-owned by the federal government. There’s a lot of things that we’d love to have that we can’t afford.”
He also expressed praise for the officers who make up the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department. These officers were also sworn in under their new sheriff on Tuesday.
“I have full confidence in the officers that work here at the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department,” he said.
Hensley’s first full day as sheriff consisting of evaluating the UCSD as a whole and examining its operating budget, he said. He also said it provided the opportunity for him to familiarize his Administrative Assistant, Craig Masters, with the department’s offices, officers and jail. Masters, along with Hensley’s Chief Deputy Frank Rogers, was also sworn in Tuesday.
Hensley also shared more immediate plans following the ceremony.
“Tonight I plan on getting out, going through the communities, patrolling, just like I would tomorrow,” Hensley said.