By CARL SMITH
Chief Deputy George Carrithers said he is fortunate and lucky to have served the citizens of Oktibbeha County for a little over 35 years.
“I’ve been walking in and out of our office door for years, and I’ve never regretted one day of it,” he said. “It has been an absolute honor and a privilege to serve and get to know the people of Oktibbeha County and the people I’ve worked with here over the years.”
Carrithers, who is set to retire in the coming month, will be honored in a service Tuesday held from 2-4 p.m. at the county circuit court annex building.
Law enforcement always interested Carrithers and his friends, he said, even at an early age.
“Growing up in a small town, there’s not a lot else to do,” he said. “In 1976 when I was old enough to get into law enforcement, I applied at Mississippi State University. The chief told it would mainly just be security work. I was coming back through Starkville when I heard over the radio that the county was doing the final count in the sheriff’s race. I walked into the old office, got an application and filled it out on the hood of a car.”
After he filled his application out, Carrithers said he saw a uniformed deputy walking across the street. Carrithers approached the deputy and asked him if he would take his application. The deputy turned out to be Sheriff-elect Dolph Bryan.
“We talked for a bit, and then he asked me if I could start that night,” Carrithers said. “I couldn’t believe he hired me off the street like that.”
“We got to talking, and he seemed like a good, honest, Christian man,” Bryan said. “I needed good men then, and he fit the part.”
Carrithers told Bryan he needed time first to discuss the job with his family and his current employer. At the time, Carrithers worked for a peanut distribution company. His main route was through MSU.
Carrithers showed up for his first shift with the sheriff’s department at 10 p.m. the next night. In the early days with the OCSO, Carrithers said his shifts lasted from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., seven days a week with no holidays or insurance.
“Back then, the department didn’t have much,” he said. “I had hand-me-down uniforms that I had to get taken up because I barely weighed 125 pounds. My first month’s paycheck was for $525, and that was before taxes. I used to bring that in on the peanut truck.”
Despite the commute from his home, the long hours and the low pay, Carrithers stuck with law enforcement because, he said, helping people was his true passion. As he worked his way up through the ranks, Carrithers’ frienship with Bryan blossomed. Neither men said they knew their first meeting would begin such a long, close-knit bond.
“Since the day he joined, there have been very few days he wasn’t here in some capacity,” Bryan said. “He’s a very loyal and smart man who did a great job for me and this county. I consider him to be part of my family, and I know he feels the same.”
“I’ve had one of the best bosses in the world,” Carrithers said. “We’ve gone from strangers to coworkers, friends and finally brothers.”
The friendships and connections Carrithers made through his job also spread beyond OCSO walls. The best moments of his career, he said, came when he was able to assist those in any kind of need.
“The best times were helping people on the side of the road by changing a tire or helping a husband and wife reconcile after a dispute. In general, I’m working for the public and I’m their servant. I’ve made a town full of friends that I’m thankful for through my job,” he said. “We get letters here thanking us for our service, and that really puts things into a great perspective. I’ve done everything I could to help, and the Lord had me by the hand the whole way.”
After retiring, Carrithers said he plans on making up much needed time with his family, a sacrifice he and other members of law enforcement routinely make because of the job.
“Family’s always supposed to come first. I tell all the young guys to make sure they are there for their families because it’s easy to get caught up in this job,” Carrithers said. “I’m fortunate to have been married to my wife, Debbie, for 39 years. She’s the best and most understanding wife in the world.”