New Chief Deputy

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 23, 2011

Wildlife officer is new chief deputy

By David Howell

It has been just over six weeks since Panola voters selected retired state trooper Dennis Darby as the county’s new sheriff and they have been busy ones.

After pulling out a narrow 135-vote victory over incumbent sheriff Otis Griffin in the Nov. 8 General Election,  Darby has a attended a two-week school, announced his new chief deputy, and started reviewing applications submitted from employees at the sheriff’s department.

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 During the two-week crash course designed for new sheriffs elected across the state, Darby said he learned about jail administration along with hiring and managing employees.

“They also had good instructions on finances,” the sheriff-elect reported Wednesday.

Finances and management will play a large role as the county’s top law enforcment official will manage a multi-million dollar budget and oversee approximately 75 full-time and part-time employees including deputies, investigators, jailers and secretaries employed at the department.

Helping Darby juggle this task will be Chris Franklin, who will serve as the county’s new chief deputy effective January 1.

Franklin is currently employed at the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, where he works as a conservation office.

A 17-veteran of law enforcement, Franklin previously worked for the sheriff’s department.

“I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from the community following the election,” Darby said. “My priority will be getting the department organized so we can serve the public – meet their needs. We will also get the spending under control and spend our money wisely.”

With spending in mind, Darby has identified another priority – increasing the base pay for his deputies.

“They need more money,” Darby said.

The sheriff-elect also noted that the department does not appear to have a structured pay scale for theemployees, another task that he will address after taking office.

When it comes to increasing the base pay, Darby anticipates the budget will have a little wiggle room after a handful of exisiting employees did not  re-apply. In November Darby required all employees to fill out new job applications.

 In a letter to each employee, he reassured employees that their jobs are safe and explained that he is attempting to update employment records to maintain the “highest possible standards” for the department.

“We only had a few folks that didn’t reapply,” Darby reiterated. “And we are going to utilize our money better.”

Looking ahead, Darby said that he will meet will all department employees during the first week in January.

“We are going to have a professional staff,” Darby stressed.

To meet these expectations – plus work on a crime rate Darby describes as “terrible,” and combat drugs – will take time.

And he plans to throw plenty of time at it.

“This will be a 24-hour, seven day a week job,” he explains.