By STEVEN NALLEY
Steve Gladney did not enter law enforcement with the specific goal of becoming sheriff. After retiring from 28 years of service with the Mississippi Highway Patrol in 2008, Gladney said several people began encouraging him to run for the office. Then in 2011, he defeated long-time incumbent Dolph Bryan in a runoff after the August Democratic primary, going on to defeat Republican candidate Rudy Johnson in November.
“Many of my law enforcement friends, as well as many community leaders, believed in me and encouraged me to seek this office,” Gladney said. “I have great respect for Dolph Bryan, and I will strive to meet the expectations he has already set in the sheriff’s department. I want a well-trained department with competent deputies and a staff that provides professionalism in law enforcement.”
On Monday, Gladney begins his first term as Oktibbeha County’s first new sheriff in 36 years.
Gladney said Bryan has gone out of his way to ensure a smooth transition.
“Sheriff Bryan and I met several times during the month of December to discuss departmental procedures,” Gladney said. “He has offered his advice, (and he) answered questions concerning personnel and day-to-day operations of the sheriff’s department. I look forward to a smooth transition in the days ahead with his help.”
Bryan said Gladney won the vote fairly, and he considered Gladney a worthy successor.
“I worked really hard this last time to get elected, and I didn’t get my vote out as well as (Gladney) did, so I lost,” Bryan said. “I’m not taking anything away from the man who’s coming in after me. He’s a good man. If you’ve got the basis of a good, honest, Christian man, you can make about anything you want out of that raw material.”
Gladney said he appreciated Bryan’s support, and he will strive to be as honest and efficient as Bryan believes he can be.
“I always felt throughout the campaign that if it were God’s will for me to be elected sheriff, then it would happen,” Gladney said. “Well, it happened, and I want to continue to ask for prayers and support as I continue to seek God’s will in my role as sheriff. I understand the challenges and responsibilities of being sheriff, and I will work hard to make the citizens of Oktibbeha County feel safe.”
Bryan said courtesy is a quality he considers key for a sheriff. Gladney said he, too, values courtesy and will offer it to both the public and employees.
“Having worked in law enforcement for 28 years, I always tried to treat others the way I wanted them to treat me,” Gladney said. “I understand what law enforcement families have to go through, and I plan to treat the people I work with on a daily basis as I would family. I plan to acknowledge the people I work with as well as the public I deal with on a daily basis with kindness and respect in hopes that they will respond in the same way.”
Within the next few days, Gladney said he will evaluate personnel, go through inventory and meet with deputies and other staff employees.
“I will be getting down to business,” Gladney said. “I will bring in two veteran law enforcement officers from the Starkville Police Department. Chadd Garnett will serve as chief deputy, and Andre Quinn will work in the investigative division. I will meet with all other deputies and evaluate their roles in the department.”
Other changes Gladney said he wants to enact include implementing drug and alcohol awareness programs for county schools.
“We will look into a D.A.R.E. program also for the county school system,” Gladney said. “I would like to see communities involved in law enforcement awareness programs.”
In the long term, Gladney said he wants to make Oktibbeha County a safe place for people to live, work and raise families.
“I will provide fair, honest, impartial and professional public services to all the citizens of Oktibbeha County,” Gladney said. ”I will continue to rely on good relations with local law enforcement agencies, and I know that good relationships with local and state agencies are important in providing county law enforcement for any community.”