Smith says won't seek office again
Escambia County (Ala.) sheriff won't be on the ballot in 2018 elections
December 7, 2017
Escambia County (Ala.) Sheriff Grover Smith announced he will not seek re-election in 2018 which will bring an end to his nearly 46-year law enforcement career.
A native of Conecuh County, Smith, 67, has been a resident of the Brewton area since 1969 and began his law enforcement career as patrol officer for the Flomaton Police Department in 1973.
"I'll be 69," Smith said of when his current term as sheriff ends on Jan. 19, 2019. "I think this job requires a more active person. It takes a lot of energy and the years have taken a toll on me and it will almost be 46 years."
Escambia County voters will go to the polls on June 5, 2018 for the primary elections and the new sheriff will be elected in the Nov. 6 General Election.
After starting his career in Flomaton, Smith worked as a patrol officer for the East Brewton Police Department. He joined the Brewton Police Department in 1976 and served as the department's chief from January, 1987 until his retirement in November, 1998.
Smith served as an investigator for the district attorney's office until he was elected sheriff in 2002 and took office as sheriff in January, 2003. He was re-elected sheriff three times and is currently serving his fourth four-year term.
"I consider myself to be one of the luckiest men in the world," Smith said. "I've been paid to do a job I love. The people of this county have been very good to me. They've fed and clothed my family for the past 46 years and I will be extremely grateful."
Smith also said it's been a very rewarding career.
"Every once in a while you get to do something to help somebody," he said. "Like teachers and preachers, that's why they go into this line of work, to help people. I've never gotten pleasure in arresting someone, but I do get satisfaction of a job well done."
Smith also said he's been blessed during his tenure as sheriff to have great people around him.
"The sheriff is just one person," Smith said. "The sheriff's office is the largest agency in the county and I've been blessed with a great relationship with the county commission and even more blessed with a great staff. The team I have now is the best I've ever had."
He noted that working in law enforcement is a stressful job, especially for the dispatchers who most people never see.
"We get about 60 percent of the 911 calls in the county," Smith said. "That's more than all the other agencies put together. We dispatch for ambulances and 15 or so volunteer fire departments. Our dispatchers are strictly business and have one of the toughest jobs in the sheriff's office and I've been blessed to have great professionals answering that telephone."
Smith said he's seen a lot of changes during his law enforcement career and the biggest is the influx of drugs into the community.
"Back when I started you could arrest 10 or 15 people for drugs and have a major impact on drug traffic," Smith said. "Now you can arrest 119 and not make a dent."
Smith also said the distrust some of the public has toward law enforcement has also been a tough hurdle.
"It used to be a tendency to give law enforcement the benefit of the doubt in accusations," he said. "Early own, you knew in your heart if you treated people as fair as you could, you'd be OK."
Smith said "this new age of litigation" has charged that feeling.
"You can be accused of virtually anything and they start creating 'facts' that are seldomely based on truth," Smith said. "It's all about the money. The county commission and every city spends a lot of money defending frivolous lawsuits against law enforcement officers just trying to do their job."
Smith added he's seen a lot of good officers get out of law enforcement work because of the risk of false accusations and litigation.
"I've never known law enforcement to be more vial than it is today," he said. "I'm glad I won't have to put my family through that again."
Smith said at this point he has no plans for his retirement.
"I've always had obligations," he said. "I think it will be nice to go a month or two with no obligations except for my family."