Kim Lay: National training officer for L.E.A.D.

Tom KingAnderson, Our Town Heroes

For the past 12 years, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office has been Kim Lay’s stage. Today, she walks onto the national stage as part of the New Jersey-based L.E.A.D. team as its national vice president of training operations.

She is petite at 5-1 but stands tall in the push to prevent our children from using drugs. L.E.A.D. – Law Enforcement Against Drugs and Violence – is the most rapidly growing drug and violence prevention program in the U.S., with certified instructors in schools in 42 states teaching fifth grade kids. Lay will lead the program that trains police officers and teachers in this evidence-based curriculum – in the classroom or online.

Kim Lay

Last Thursday was her last day at the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office and at Fairview Elementary School as its school resource officer. The Sheriff’s Office, Anderson County Schools and the community honored her with a reception at Anderson County High School.

And last Thursday she hugged kids, teachers and parents at Fairview on her final day. “I have loved this career and my heart is working with the kids. I love it and that’s why I stayed as an SRO and yes, I’m going to really miss the kids,” she says. “I said a lot of bittersweet goodbyes at Fairview. It’s so important to build their trust and relationships.”

Anderson County Sheriff Russell Barker is a big fan. “Kim Lay is synonymous with public servant,” Barker said. “Her passion and dedication are second to none.”

Lay, a native of Pikeville, Kentucky, who began her law enforcement career there in 2001, brought the L.E.A.D. program to Anderson County in 2016. Since then, the well-earned honors have rolled in. In 2018, Anderson County Schools named her its SRO Officer of the Year.

Then came the two major awards in 2020 – L.E.A.D.’s Tennessee Instructor of the Year and then the organization’s National Instructor of the Year award. She is widely credited for the growth and success of the program, statewide and nationally.

Lay, 52, also is a K-9 officer and her 8-year-old Black Lab partner, Max, retires with her. But she’s not completely disappearing. She will remain a reserve deputy for ACSO as will Max, who is a drug-sniffing and search-and-rescue dog. Her husband, Larry, a former ACSO deputy, is also a reserve deputy whose fulltime job is information technology. She has two sons and one grandson.

Her first job was at the Pike County Detention Facility for four years. Then she came to Tennessee in 2005 and spent two years at the Scott County Sheriff’s Office where she went through the police academy and eventually was promoted to captain as its jail administrator. In 2010, she joined the ACSO at its detention facility and eventually became an SRO.

After five years as an SRO, she and Sgt. Wendy Garrison began this program for Anderson County Schools. They were the first two female L.E.A.D instructors in Tennessee. The L.E.A.D. curriculum is taught to all fifth graders in Anderson County (425 students) at the nine elementary schools. It is a 10-week program, 45 minutes for each class.

“We help the kids set goals, how to make good decisions and effective communication,” Lay said. “They’re also taught nine refusal strategies if someone offers them drugs and we teach them the effects that drugs, alcohol and nicotine have on the body, plus the over-the-counter drugs and prescriptions.”

Her passion now is to help bring other states into the fold and supervise all of the L.E.A.D. instructor training. “This is evidence-based training as its best and is proven to be effective. I’ve always been so passionate about this program from the start and I’ve seen how effective and how great it has worked in Anderson County. I feel very blessed and honored to work on the national level to help combat the drugs in our schools.”

Why teach this to fifth graders? “It is more effective then because when the kids get to middle or high school, the peer pressure kicks in and that makes it harder for them,” she said. “It’s tougher to reach them then.”

This is a perfect new role for her – keeping kids away from drugs, teaching them the strategies and training fellow law enforcement officers and teachers how to do it. It is a labor of love for this hero amongst us.

Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and was the editor of two newspapers. Suggest future stories at or call him at 865-659-3562.


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