Run For Office Of
County Road Supt.
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Greene County Sheriff Steve Burns will run for reelection in 2014.
Burns made the announcement during an address to the Greene County Republican Party on Monday.
Burns, who has served in the Greene County Sheriff's Department for 37 years, 16 of which as sheriff, was the keynote speaker for the meeting.
"I certainly appreciate the support I've been shown by all of you and the citizens of this county in the past several years and hope that you have confidence in me, that I'll do my very best," Burns said.
"I still have a burning desire in my belly to get up every morning and do my best to serve all the citizens of this county.
"I do my best to work, and go to bed when everything's done. That's the way I am."
Among other items of business, Kevin Swatsellalso announced his intention to run for Greene County Road Superintendent in 2014.
Swatsell said in a follow-up interview with The Greeneville Sun that he is currently a bridge inspector for the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), for which he has worked in a variety departments, from maintenance to construction.
"I'd like to continue doing that, and I'd like to be working for Greene County," he said Monday.
During Sheriff Burns' presentation, he noted a key way in which he said he tries to save taxpayers' money through raising a garden to help feed jail inmates.
This year, the inmates raised so much produce that much is being frozen to feed them into the winter, he said.
With approximately 400 inmates in county custody per day, Burns said his jail budget allows for about $6,000 per week in food.
By using the garden, he can feed inmates two out of three meals per day and save $6,000 over the course of about 10 days, he said.
The sheriff said he tries to keep the cost of feeding an inmate at about $2 per day by using beans as protein along with garden vegetables rather than meat.
TRENDS IN CRIME
The sheriff then turned his attention to trends in local crime, which he said have changed greatly during his years in law enforcement.
He said that there were about 4,000 people in jail in Greene County over the course of last year.
"The people we deal with today, they have no respect for themselves, their family or anything else," he said.
"[However,] that's the minority. Look at us, and look at the most of our citizens. We're all respectful people."
Nearly every law enforcement report that comes through today, Burns said, links either directly or indirectly to the misuse of legalized prescription medications.
In his nine years working the narcotics division of local law enforcement, the sheriff said he would not have dreamed that the next phase in drug use would be prescription drugs.
He noted recent reports about the number of grandparents raising their grandchildren -- often, he said, because the parents are in jail.
Sometimes those same grandparents become the victim of stolen prescription drugs.
In the majority of cases in which drugs or valuable items are stolen, the victim will know a possible suspect, he said.
"It's somebody they know. It's family. If they're in the drug world, it's an associate," he said.
"We want to help people that, otherwise, are not a criminal. They will tell you, 'I'm addicted. I've got to have it.'"
Burns noted ongoing attempts to get a drug database up and going in the state to aid against "doctor-shopping," as well as other future state legislation he hopes to see in the coming year.
State Rep. David Hawk, R-5th, of Greeneville, and state Sen. Steve Southerland, R-1st, of Morristown, both vowed to aid in this attempt.
Hawk referred to the prescription pill problem as an "epidemic," noting the possibility of legislation allowing audits of those doctors who heavily prescribe pain medications.
"We've got to break the cycle," he said.
Southerland said the abuse of prescription medications has become the state's biggest problem, with drug overdoses killing more people than traffic accidents.
"It's something that we haven't grasped and haven't figured out the solution," Southerland said. "You can't legalize morality."