Draining the swamp (one mosquito at a time)

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk

Knox County Sheriff’s Office spends almost $2 million annually to pay 15 individuals who earn over $100,000 per year. Five are running the show and 10 are helping out here and there.

On the law enforcement side are Sheriff Tom Spangler, Chief Deputy Bernie Lyon, Chief Jailer William Purvis and two assistant chief deputies.

High-paid administrative helpers include two lawyers; four directors (pre-trial release, planning & development, procurement, and finance); and jailhouse healthcare (an administrator, two nurse practitioners and a physician assistant).

We asked Sheriff Spangler what he has done or plans to trim overhead.

“I’m trying my darndest,” he said.

His predecessor, Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones, placed virtually everyone under merit board protection. Read here how Jones created a position of purchasing agent, hired a golfing buddy with limited or no advertising and then slammed the new job under the merit board. Read here my editorial of July 26, 2018, asking if Spangler is tough enough to make the necessary changes.

Spangler said he is not replacing chiefs who resign or retire. Sheriff Jones had eight chiefs. Spangler has four. He has redirected some $700,000 saved to create more positions in enforcement – 10 in corrections and six on patrol. (This math shows the problem – four chiefs equal 16 workers.)

He praised the pre-trial release (electronic monitoring) program headed by Todd Cook, saying he’s got over 1,400 people awaiting trial out of jail, saving on the cost of incarceration and deferring the need to build more cells. But that growth is requiring him to grow the staff from nine to 16. “The judges are wanting us to do more.”

Spangler, who worked up through the ranks to become chief deputy under former Sheriff Tim Hutchison, has a heart for the patrol and corrections officers. “We’ve got good people out there doing hard work,” he says.

Good point, sheriff. That’s why we should pay them what they’re worth.


My nephew, James Clark Calloway, is getting harder and harder to talk with. But I landed a good punch last week.


Jay wrote: “After that Iowa caucus thing maybe Oligarch Bloomberg can just purchase the Democrats outright in a fire sale and finance some upgrades … paint job, new drapes, smaller drink sizes, etc.”

I wrote back: “Hey, that might work. Look how Trump’s hostile takeover has upgraded the Republicans.”


The somewhat humorless Bloomberg actually had a good line. When asked what he thought about a race for president between two billionaires, Bloomberg said: “And who would be the second one?”

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today. Reach her at sandra.clark@knoxtntoday.com.

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