Sheriff cites low pay as reason for loss of staff

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Butler County Sheriff Diane Harris has had to wear many hats over the last few days.

Harris not only has had the wear the hat of sheriff of the county, but also the hat of a candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for re-election to her present office and the hat of a patrol officer since she and Capt. Kenneth Hadley are the only two certified officers presently on staff.

Harris' staff dwindled on Friday when chief deputy Clint Reaves resigned, Harris said.

While Harris said that she has plenty of applications on her desk to fill the vacancies on her force,. She said the biggest problem she faces in trying to hire certified deputies is the low starting salary for a deputy.

A certified deputy for Butler County earns $9.50 per hour, which is less than what a certified patrol officer makes for the city and certainly much less than a person working at a Hyundai Tier I supplier makes.

&#8220No one is going to work for (what we pay) when they can go right up the road and work at Hyundai for $12 per hour,” Harris said. &#8220But a (deputy's) pay has always been low. It's not just here but everywhere else.”

A certified patrol officer in Greenville makes $9.80 per hour, which just so happens to be almost 50 cents more than a grade II garbage collector for the city.

A certified deputy in Crenshaw County makes exactly the same as a Butler County deputy, but not as much as a certified deputy in Lowndes County. A certified deputy makes about $10.50 per hour, according to Lowndes County Sheriff Willie Vaughner.

However all three law enforcement agencies make more than a certified deputy in Conecuh County. The starting wage for a certified deputy is $8.64.

Butler County Commissioner Glenn King expressed his concern over the lack of deputies at Monday's commission meeting.

&#8220It causes me great concern,” he said. &#8220The rural people of this county basically have a deputy sheriff to call upon. Any department is only good as its employees. I'm just concerned about this.”

Harris said that another certified deputy is expected to start work today, while she is waiting to hear on another offer that was made to another certified deputy.

&#8220Right now we have three process servers who go around in the county to check on churches and the elderly,” Harris said. &#8220. . . I hope to get back up in the swing again soon. It's just another bump in the road, and we just keep going on.”