Former sheriff says law prevents him from running for office aga - WSMV News 4

Former sheriff says law prevents him from running for office again

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Ricky Headley (WSMV) Ricky Headley (WSMV)
Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long (WSMV) Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long (WSMV)
Tennessee Sheriff's Association Executive Director Terry Ashe (WSMV) Tennessee Sheriff's Association Executive Director Terry Ashe (WSMV)

As voters go to the polls on Thursday, in some counties you will only see one candidate on the ballot for sheriff.

In about 20 Tennessee counties the current sheriff is unopposed for re-election.

One man who wants to be sheriff said a law meant to keep him from running is knocking out a lot of other qualified candidates.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said former Williamson County Sheriff Ricky Headley.

Headley is talking about a change in state law that limits who voters can choose as sheriff.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous and it’s taken the right of the citizens to elect their sheriff completely out of their hands,” said Headley.

The law changed in 2011 when the state legislature changed the requirements to be sheriff.

Now you have to have worked at least three years as a law enforcement officer within the last 10 years, so Headley can’t run for his former job as Sheriff.

And it affects other counties in the state, except for Davidson County.

Now career law enforcement professionals who retired more than 10 years ago are disqualified from running.

Headley said he believes this was passed to protect incumbents, like the man he’d like to challenge, Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long.

Long was the chairman of the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association’s Legislative Committee when the bill passed.

“It’s all politics,” said Headley.

“This had absolutely nothing to do with Ricky Headley,” said Terry Ashe, the executive director for the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association and the former Wilson County Sheriff. “This attack by him is an insult.”

Headley was forced to step down as Williamson County Sheriff in 2007 after charges related to his abuse of prescription drugs.

“A sheriff who was convicted of multiple criminal offenses making allegations about a sheriff in his home county and then basically attacking the association. It really doesn’t even justify a comment, but I’m giving you one anyway,” said Ashe.

The reason the sheriff’s qualifications were beefed up is because the job is complicated and today’s sheriffs need experience that’s current, according to Ashe.

“I want people qualified in the field they’re in to do these jobs,” said Ashe.

Long sent a statement to News4 saying in part “I am disappointed that Mr. Headley has implicated that I was solely responsible for the passage of the sheriffs’ qualification bill. Because of that bill Tennessee now has the most qualified sheriffs ever in the history of the state.”

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