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Phelps will not take over Sheriff’s office Jan. 1 – Date is Jan. 6

Panola County Sheriff-elect Shane Phelps learned late Tuesday night that he will not be taking office at the stroke of midnight Dec. 31 as he believed. Instead, his term will officially begin at one second after midnight on Jan. 6.

County Attorney Gaines Baker said he was not asked by any county official, or recently-elected person, how state statutes would determine the transition of county positions. He clarified the procedure Wednesday morning at the Batesville Courthouse, where the Board of Supervisors were meeting to cover several agenda items.

Citing Mississippi Code 25-1-5, described as “Date terms begin for district, county, and beat officers,” Baker said the law is clear about the matter. The statute reads:

“The term of office of all officers elected at such election for any district office, in a district composed for more than one county, or any county office, or any office of a subdivision of a county shall commence on the first Monday of January next succeeding the election.”

Phelps and his assistants have been planning the transition, assuming it would begin when 2019 ends on New Year’s Eve at midnight. To that end, the Sheriff-elect had planned on taking control of the county law enforcement duties in the early hours of Jan. 1.

He had also coordinated with Batesville Police Chief Jimmy McCloud to deputize several city patrolmen to cover the county on Jan. 2, the day that Phelps had planned an initial meeting with all department members to begin his administration.

Phelps will be starting his term with a mixture of current deputies and several new hires. The names of the new deputies and support staff that he wants to hire were submitted to the Board of  Supervisors in Wednesday’s meeting and were discussed in executive session.

That list of new hires will be made public soon.

Phelps said he wasn’t “bothered at all” when he learned about the state law that governs county offices. “We will continue with the same plan, just at a later date,” he said. The initial meeting planned for Jan. 2 will most likely be held Jan. 7, he said.

“It’s fine with me, we’re just anxious to get started,” Phelps said at the Courthouse Wednesday.

Phelps, along with Tax Assessor/Collector-elected Rev. O’dell Draper, and supervisors-elect Earl Burdette and Chad Weaver will also be taking office for the first time on Monday, Jan. 5.

Unless plans are changed, all the elected county office heads will be sworn Dec. 27 at the Courthouse. Each of their terms will then begin at the same time as the new sheriff’s.