DAVIDSON COUNTY — The Davidson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously at its first regular April meeting to approve a pay adjustment for the different tiers of experience within the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Richie Simmons thanked commissioners for correcting a lot of the problems that threatened the department’s ability to recruit deputies. By signing off on a new salary scale based on a recent pay study, the board provided the sheriff with the ability to negotiate salaries, possibly offering more money for those with many years of service.
“I thank you from the bottom of our hearts, from our office,” Simmons said. “It is going to help; I believe it will. I think it’s something that has been a long time coming. It’s been stagnated for a long time, and we just moved that.”
In March 2018, the board of commissioners heard from the sheriff’s office about the difficulty of finding qualified deputies and then the imminent threat of other law enforcement agencies poaching employees.
“How do I get them, how do I keep them?”
That two-fold question posed to commissioners by then Davidson County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Casey Tarleton prompted a lengthy discussion that ultimately yielded a unanimous vote to approve an amendment to the department’s hiring plan. At that time, in order to increase hiring potential for the sheriff’s office, the board voted to allow DCSO to hire Deputy 1 positions while they are in Basic Law Enforcement Training.
Current and former DCSO officers have mentioned that they do not want to serve as a “training ground” for other departments. Tarleton also explained three years ago that he did not wish to implement any sort of measure that would deter prospective deputies from joining the department, as the department has been losing a substantial number of personnel.
“We had two jailers that had been here for three years,” Tarleton said. “We sent them to night school, and then they both went to Pepsi and Cheerwine. We’re not really losing them to law enforcement. We’re losing them to Old Dominion and Pepsi and Cheerwine. It’s a money thing.”
Simmons echoed these sentiments this month. County Manager Casey Smith said the direction the county is moving will now address more senior members of the department, focusing on retention rather than entry-level positions.
“An analysis that HR provided us showed that dealing with compression problems at the sheriff’s office ties, potentially, to some of our recruiting challenges,” Smith said. “We know we’re sitting on — at any given time, I’ll just use a round number — 25 vacancies, 27 some days, etc.
“We’ve moved the pay grade based on the pay study.”
Simmons suggests that the new plan the county approved puts their years of service in play, whereas before Smith said someone with 18 years of experience was outearned by someone with far less experience. When asked about the difficulty of retaining deputies using the old model, Simmons said the sheriff’s office had lost six people in the last two weeks.
“We’re not having problems necessarily recruiting folks to get into our entry points,” Smith said. “What we really have challenges with is keeping folks with maybe 11 years and above. We also have an issue when one of those folks leaves, we don’t have the ability to bring them in at a better salary.”
The sheriff indicated that he believes with the vote Tuesday, the sheriff’s office will become more competitive in offering amenable salaries. With that in hand, he contends it will result in a tangible upgrade to the office’s efficiency.
“To get the best people here, which I think the people of Davidson County want … it does cost,” Simmons said. “We don’t want a podunk sheriff’s office. We want the best, and that’s what I want to bring to you. And it does cost to get the best people here, because you are, you’re jockeying with other agencies that’s around.
“We’re doing all those things. We’re bringing what this county needs.”
Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.