Changing of the guard: Turman anxious to get started as new sheriff, names new employees

Published 2:53 am Saturday, January 12, 2019

It’s been almost six months since Blake Turman was elected to be Covington County’s new sheriff, and he’s anxious to get started.

Turman officially takes over at 12:01 a.m. Monday. Presiding Circuit Court Judge Lex Short will officially swear him in a ceremony set for 10 a.m. in the courthouse, and he’ll meet with all employees at 3 p.m.

“Since July, I’ve buttoned up everything with the Department of Public Safety and made sure everything was good there,” the former trooper said. “I still had my job to do.

“I’ve met with as many people as I possibly can.

Come 12:01 Monday morning, we’re going to be ready,” he said. “We’ll get started with inventories and audits, making sure everything’s right. There’s a lot do with the public, dealing with security at the courthouse, and with school resource officers. My goal is to have all of my house in order within 90 days.

Turman announced early in the campaign that if he was elected, Todd Grimes would be his chief deputy. He’s also lined up a number of other people to join the department.

“Todd is excited,” Turman said Friday. “We’ve been coming up with game plans with what we need to do as far as personnel is concerned. He is in Montgomery picking up uniforms now.”

Turman said Chris Byrd, most recently of the Andalusia Police Department, will join the sheriff’s department as chief of patrol. Mike Irwin, who currently works as an investigator in the district attorney’s office, will move to the sheriff’s department to manage investigations.

Others joining him include Beth Johnson, of the Florala Police Department; Al McGraw, a canine handler with the Elba Police Department; and

Nick Ireland, who currently is a sergeant in the Andalusia Police Department. Retired SBI Capt. Tommy Merritt will work as a part-time employee with investigations.

“He will bring a wealth of knowledge and contacts for our department,” Turman said. “One thing about me and Todd and Tommy, we have contacts across the state, and that has already paid off. “

The biggest change he hopes to implement is an increased sense of urgency.

“We don’t pick and choose our calls,” he said. “We go to all calls. We’ve got to start out strong because I aim to finish strong. I want my officers to go there and provide the very best service they possibly can. If they don’t know the answer, I want them to call somebody that does.”

Turman said he’s going to encourage deputies to get to know every mom and pop grocery and country story in the county.

“There’s a wealth of information there,” he said.

He anticipates the biggest challenge being managing the county jail.

“Everybody has told me it will be the biggest challenge, and I agree,” he said.

He hopes to expand the work release program, but make sure there’s no contraband coming in to the jail.

“It would suit me if by 8 o’clock every day, all of our inmates were out there with a weed sling,” he said. “I’m gonna put ‘em to work.”

“I want to finish strong,” he said. “Whenever God leads me to go somewhere else, I want to make sure this department is in good shape. I want to prepare for the future. I’m not always going to be in the future picture, but I want to make it right for whoever is.”