Trooper Proffitt enters county sheriff's race

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Whether as a solider or a law enforcement officer, state Trooper Jerry Proffitt has spent the better part of his life providing people with help and guidance.
   Now, he has designs on using his experience to serve as Carter County's top law enforcer.
   "I've always had a desire to one day become a sheriff, more so because of the people in the county," said Proffitt, 53, who has thrown his hat into the ring for the Carter County sheriff's race.
   "I had hoped that I would have the assets to help the people at my disposal, which I believe I can do when I am elected sheriff."
   The Johnson County native has spent 28 years as a state trooper with Tennessee Highway Patrol. He has been assigned to Carter County for 25 of those years. He has also spent 10 years as a volunteer member of the Carter County Rescue Squad.
   "I have a great love for the people in the county and as a trooper, I've been in a position to be in direct contact with the people and find out what some of their problems are," he said.
   He graduated from Johnson County High School and holds an associate's degree in Criminal Justice Technology from Walters State Community College.
   Up until a few days ago, he was serving on active duty at the U.S. Navy base in Pascagoula, Miss., with the military police guarding the U.S.S. Cole -- the destroyer that was attacked by terrorists while docked off Yemen in October 2000.
   His orders were cut in September and he was called for 12 months of service. However, the Navy' s decision to downsize reservists permitted him to end his active service requirement three months early.
   "I had planned on running before I was activated," said Proffitt, a Vietnam veteran who served with the U.S. Army as a member of the Airborne infantry. "Since I had short notice, I had no alternative."
   Proffitt said he would lead the department's work to target drug trafficking areas of the county and include the public in addressing the county's illegal drug problems.
   "I've seen areas where I would like to intensify law enforcement penetration where there is drug traffic," he said. "Drugs are not the only problem, but they are a major concern all over the county."
   Proffitt said he did not support building a new county jail and believed the department's burden of housing inmates -- especially state inmates -- was too high.
   "I don't believe the county can stand to build a new jail right now," he said. "I think the loss of factories, income, and tax revenues will not bear that."
   He said that since he had worked in Carter County, he had been aware of problems with prisoners and jail overcrowding.
   The sheriff's department provides all the housing, food, and medical treatment and the county receives financial reimbursement from the state.
   However, the entire amount of money does not go back to the department but is returned into the general fund. The sheriff's department receives only a percentage of the money generated through their housing of state prisoners.
   "If that is going to continue to be the case, the county could refuse to accept that number of people," said Proffitt.
   He stated that he also supported making the county's school teachers and principals aware of their rights to keep schools safe from students involved with drugs, or who initiate violence, without a fear of being fired.
   "If the teachers have the policies brought to their attention, maybe they can know the policy and enforce it," he said. "Perhaps, that way it can deter drug use at schools and it could have a little bite where they could do what is needed and not worry about being fired."
   Proffitt said he also wanted to see programs which educate parents about the warning signs of drug use among children.
   Proffitt's candidacy announcement comes after nine months of active duty with the U.S. Navy. He was called into active duty with the U.S. Navy reserves shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
   During his years in the military and law enforcement, Proffitt said he has received a good education on how to listen to people and handle situations.
   "Within those 28 years I've come in to contact with numerous people. I've learned how different people function," he said. "Everyone has their pride and they need to be treated as such. Some people need a little bit more help than others."