STEWART COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – In Stewart County, the sheriff says his law enforcement officers are some of the lowest paid in the area.
Sheriff Frankie Gray says that in just one year, he has lost 20 of his officers due to the low pay. He’s concerned this will start hurting how the sheriff’s office serves Stewart County.
Gray is proud of his office’s accomplishments, but he worries about maintaining that record when he’s quickly losing deputies.
“I can’t show you a place that pays less than us, or even close to what we are paying,” said Gray.
In Stewart County, starting pay for a correctional officer is $11.90 an hour; Gray would like that bumped to $15. Deputy starting pay is $15.46 an hour; Gray would like to see it at $20.
“I don’t think anybody is going to begrudge giving my corrections officers a raise when they are making $11.90 an hour. You can’t hardly go out and have lunch on $11.90.”
Gray says that he’s losing people to neighboring agencies with attractive signing bonuses and paying $4, $5 and $6 more an hour. He worries that if people keep leaving, it could affect the number of SROs keeping the schools safe.
“I don’t want that because I want schools protected, I want kids protected. My grandkids go there so I want them protected.”
“I feel for the sheriff. I feel for all our county employees,” said Stewart County Commissioner Elijah Thomas, who represents District 1.
Thomas was once a correctional officer. He agrees the work is hard and the pay low, but he would like to see all county employees get a pay boost, not only law enforcement.
“I have to look up the library, court clerks. I would like to see a pay bump across the board. I would like to see everybody come up 4% or 5%, instead of just seeing the sheriff’s office come up 25% to 30%,” said Thomas.
“Hopefully, we’ll come to some kind of resolution,” said Gray.