It’s not easy to blindside Lisa Hill, but on an early August afternoon this woman was blindsided and shocked in the same instant.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 3, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office held its ceremony to announce the annual promotions and awards. Sitting there in the audience, enjoying seeing co-workers honored, Hill heard these words: “This year we have added a new award for our department – our Leader of the Year. It is named after longtime employee and former Sheriff Paul White. The first-ever recipient is Sgt. Lisa Hill.”
Her reaction: “Oh my God … I didn’t ever expect it. I couldn’t believe it. Did they really call my name? I was shocked when I heard my name called. I’m honored and humbled. Still hard to believe. I almost cried, but then I remembered that big girls don’t cry. It’s such a good feeling to be picked for this award.”
What makes this honor so special is that the department’s supervisors and leaders voted for the recipient. Hill was their overwhelming choice. For her, that makes it even more special.
When asked about Sgt. Hill, Anderson County Sheriff Russell Barker said: “Sgt. Hill epitomizes the core values of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office – integrity, service, and community. She is a strong leader, passionate about serving her community and those she works with at the jail. Watching her lead the men and women at the jail is truly special. I feel honored to have her in this administration.”
Lisa Hill is an Our Town Hero today. Sgt. Hill’s job site address is 308 Public Safety Lane in Clinton. That’s the address for the ACSO Detention Center – the jail. She has spent all of her 13 years at the sheriff’s office working at the jail and she loves it. The Detention Division has an average daily inmate population of approximately 400 – roughly 319 males and 65 females. They take in approximately 4,500 new prisoners each year.
Hill is a graduate of Scott County High School and was reared in Huntsville. Before she joined ACSO she worked as a cosmetologist and also was a cashier at the Cracker Barrel in Rocky Top, Tennessee.
How did she make the jump from cosmetology and Cracker Barrel to law enforcement? “It was an accident,” she remembers. “I was actually working at Cracker Barrel and Anderson County Deputy Jeff Watson was there one day and we struck up a conversation. He told me I should think about joining the department.”
She thought about it and took his advice – she applied for a job that same week. But why did she prefer working at the jail? Her reasoning is simple. “Patrol is scary. They get shot at and I don’t want to be shot at any time anywhere.”
She quickly adds that the jail has its own dangers. But no guns – anywhere. She says she’s been assaulted many times by men and women. “It’s part of the job. We take self-defense training. We always have backups close when we are attacked. I know a big man could take me down, but he’d have a helluva time doing it. You never turn your back on them. You have to be motivated and alert every second. The head has to be on a swivel.”
The majority of the attacks happen during cell searches, when the inmates are in their recreational sessions or during their initial in-take into the jail “when they are still high (on drugs) or drunk,” she added.
Sounds like a scary place. “You’d be a fool not to be scared here. Being attacked happens. It can and does happen. And the inmates fight. Complacency is your enemy.”
Hill added that the female inmates cause different problems. “They’re all about drama and I hate drama. The men cause us more trouble, but I’ve had some fights with women and there are some tough broads in here. Many of the women have mental health issues and we work to help them,” she explained.
Many inmates are repeat offenders, so jail staff naturally gets to know them. Here is her approach to the job. “I enjoy my work. I try to help people and make their days a little brighter. They’re human beings who made dumb mistakes. But they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and I pride myself on training my people to always remember that.”
To relieve the stress from a dangerous job, Hill heads home. She is a single mom and her best friend is her daughter, Lily, 14. “We love to laugh and go kayaking on the Clinch River or Melton Hill Lake. We enjoy cooking and Lily wants to have a bakery one day. She’s such a good girl.”
No danger, stresses or assaults at home … just a Sunday afternoon of fun in the kitchen, making fried egg and baloney sandwiches – together.
Tom King writes Our Town Heroes each Monday. Suggest future stories at email@example.com or call him at 865-659-3562.