There will be a new sheriff in town starting Monday morning. Phil Sims takes office as sheriff that day.
“I will be there at midnight Sunday night to get keys and things of that nature,” he said. His official swearing in ceremony will be Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. in the big Courtroom on the 2nd floor of the Courthouse. The ceremony is open to the public.
Sims has plans for what he wants to achieve as sheriff, but urged the public to be patient.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” he said. “It’s going to take some time.”
He has already named 2 veteran lawmen as the senior officers in his department:
- Doug Gibbs, a former Guntersville police investigator who has also served previously as chief deputy, will be his chief deputy.
- Steve Guthrie, a former drug unit and DA’s investigator, will be the assistant chief deputy.
“We will name other people to other key positions as openings become available,” Sims said. "Those will have to go before the County Personnel Board."
He said his first priority is going to be the jail and straightening out any problems there.
“The jail will be our top priority,” Sims said.
His second priority will be filling any unfilled slots for deputies and jailers.
“I campaigned on bringing accountability back to the sheriff’s office and that’s what I plan to do,” Sims said.
His third priority will be working to address the drug problem in the county. He wants more anti-drug education in the schools and communities, plus a strong law enforcement effort against drugs.
“We are going to support the Drug Task Force 100 percent and make sure they have the tools they need,” Sims said. Much of his career has been spent working as a drug unit officer, both in Marshall County and Etowah County.
Since his election in June, he has met with the County Commission.
“The Commission and I are going to work together to resolve the problems in the sheriff’s office,” Sims said. “There’s no doubt in my mind we will address them.”
He has also met with the legislative delegation and the county school superintendent. Sims said funding needs to be found to boost the number of school resource officers in Marshall County Schools.
“We have 7 part-time officers working in the schools,” Sims said. “We need the part-timers, but we need full-time deputies in the schools too. As it stands now, some schools are not covered at times.”
He plans to organize some “patrol blitzes” aimed at crime hotspots around the county.
He has met with the chiefs of police in all the cities.
“We will have a good working relationship with the cities,” Sims said. “Most of these guys were coming up through the ranks, boots on the ground, the same time as I was.”
Speaking of boots on the ground, Sims has said he plans to be a “working sheriff” who goes out in the field and works cases with his deputies. He is still planning to do that, although he said it might take some time as he addresses problems in the jail first.
He has asked the legislative delegation to pass a bill removing the jail feeding program from him personally. Under the provisions of the bill he has proposed, he would still be able to negotiate with companies and take donations, but any surplus funds from feeding inmates would go to the jail account for law enforcement use rather than to his personal account.
He said the bill he has proposed also addresses the sheriff’s pay since the jail feeding component would be removed from the sheriff’s compensation.
“The delegation is working on the bill,” Sims said.
He plans for the sheriff’s office to have a presence on social media, including Facebook. And he wants to launch the Nixle alert program law enforcement agencies in other places use to issue alerts to the public.
“It’s a great program,” Sims said. “You can send alerts about severe weather, someone who is wanted by law enforcement or just about any information you need to get out quickly.”
There should not be much lag in pistol permits as Sims begins his administration.
“We should have our pistol permit system up by the afternoon I take office or the next day,” Sims said.
He doesn’t plan any changes to the uniforms worn by deputies, but he does want to change the look of the fleet of vehicles.
“The brown and tan cars are a special paint job and that costs extra money,” Sims said. “Over time, I want to go to all trucks and SUVs, white with a new stripe package.”
Sims’ first job in law enforcement was at the sheriff’s office in 1993 and he is excited to be going back.
“I’m just ready to get in there and go to work,” he said.