Hamilton County Sheriff’s Plea For Pay Increase Met With Opposition

Photo: Sheriff Jim Hammond Addresses the Hamilton County Commission

Photo Credit: HamiltonCountyTN / YouTube

Published August 16, 2021

The Tennessee Conservative [by Jason Vaughn] –

During a recent Hamilton County Commission meeting, Sheriff Jim Hammond renewed his plea for a pay increase but was met with opposition by Commissioners. 

Chattanooga, Tennessee At Night

The resolution, presented to the Commission by the Sheriff’s office, outlined an increase in salary for the Sheriff’s position from the current $149,068 along with associated benefits to a new number left to the discretion of the County Commission. 

The request was made, in part, due to the Sheriff’s increase in responsibilities which included assuming operation of the Silverdale Detention Center on December 30th, 2020. 

Sheriff Hammond spoke of the successful transitioning of the facility from CoreCivic, the successful transitioning of prisoners from downtown facility and the following closure of the downtown facility.  

“I have to tell you probably the last six months has been the most challenging of my career,” Hammond said. 

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Hammond pointed out that Tennessee code does allow for the County Commissioners to adjust the pay of the Sheriff as it has been done in other counties, namely Rutherford and Knox counties. 

Hammond stated that the two counties mentioned most closely resemble Hamilton County in “population and responsibility of the Sheriff.” 

“Rutherford County, with less population, the Sheriff there receives almost $20,000 more than I receive in this county.  Knox County, which has more population, receives an even greater amount.  Rutherford County does not run a workhouse, yet the Sheriff does receive that increase,” Hammond said, “ I’m asking this Commission to give thought, first of all for the conclusion of my career which will be a little over a year left but going forward, the Sheriff of this county has got a lot more weight on him.”  

Hammond stated that when he started as Chief Deputy years ago there were “180 to 190” employees but the department now has over 500. 

Hammond said, “I would ask that you give prayerful consideration to increasing the salary of the Sheriff.  I leave that up to you with how much that is…” 

District 4 Commissioner Warren Mackey said to Hammond, “The logic that was presented as to why that office should receive that increase is very sound and if nobody beat me to do it, I’m going to make the motion next week to approve to increase your pay.” 

District 3 Commissioner Greg Martin said, “I’m not sure I can support a raise at this time and I know I can’t support something that is ambiguous as this is when it comes to the amount of money.” 

It was indicated that the resolution could be redrafted to reflect a real dollar amount. 

District 5 Commissioner Katherlyn Geter said, “The first time you presented this resolution to us I was very much concerned and I have to be honest and transparent, I still am.” 

“One of the parts that was very disturbing… one of the words that stood out…was the word ‘equity’… For your department to put in a letter about the reason of equity to justify a pay increase, it’s not right.  Because I would ask you, how many Blacks do you have currently on the payroll? How many Asians? How many Hispanics?  And how many women?” Geter said. 

Hammond responded, “The head of any organization should be paid compensation that is equitable to what he is required and supposed to do.  No sheriff has worked as hard as I have to recruit minorities into this agency.  I have extra HR people on board.  I’m like everybody else; we’re desperate for employees.  We’re out there every day recruiting.  And I will hire as many as I get applicants for that can pass the stringent requirements of the state…” 

Hammond stated that he feels the pay raise would help carry the county forward in how the Sheriff operates and the quality of people that take on the position. 

District 9 Commissioner Steve Highlander said to Hammond, “I thank you that it is not for you …It’s a miniscule amount for you, it’s a miniscule amount for your retirement since you’re in your last year but you’re concerned with the office and think that’s commendable.” 

However, Highlander stated:   

“One thing that really does concern me right now is that there are a lot of people (in Hamilton County) that are struggling financially now because they do not have jobs… We’re looking at roughly $20,000 (for the raise), perhaps we might modify that somewhat, make it a smaller amount…  I want to look at the condition the citizens are in…”  

District 1 Commissioner Randy Fairbanks stated that he is “struggling” with the increase of pay for the Sheriff’s position when the deputies are still “underpaid.” 

The County Commission will likely cast their votes for the proposed pay increase this week at their meeting. 

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About the Author:

Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative 

Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com

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