Passing the torch
Circuit Judge Julian King swears in Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore for a second time Friday as Kilgore's wife Toni and former Sheriff Jerry Studdard hold the Bible.

TALLADEGA COUNTY – Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore was sworn in by Circuit Judge Julian King for a second time Friday morning, this time in front of a packed courtroom full of other law enforcement officers, elected officials, well-wishers and friends.

Former Sheriff Jerry Studdard, who was serving his ninth term in office when he announced his retirement earlier this week, was also present and participated in the ceremony.

King said there would be another ceremony on Friday, April 12, where Studdard would be sworn in as supernumerary sheriff by Sen. Jerry Fielding, followed by a retirement party.

Fielding, a former district and circuit court judge, said he had administered all nine of Studdard’s previous oaths, and was proud to have the opportunity to administer number 10.

“He has been a great sheriff and a great leader,” Fielding said. “The saying around here was always that if his brother got into trouble with the law, Sheriff Studdard would put him in jail. I was lucky enough to be witness to good enforcement, and his cultivating of great young officers. Jimmy Kilgore will carry on that way, and I thank Gov. (Robert) Bentley for appointing him.”

County Commission Chairman Kelvin Cunningham said it was “an honor and a pleasure” working with Studdard, but, turning to Kilgore, he said “This is your day. You have worked hard for this for a number of years. You are forthright and good with a budget. We’ve had our differences, but all that was worked out. You are the architect of many initiatives over the years, like the metro jail, which brought all law enforcement agencies in the county together. It has been a pleasure working with you as chief deputy, and I look forward to working with you as sheriff. I appreciate Sheriff Studdard, but don’t try to fill his shoes. Wear your own shoes, but follow his guidance.”

District Attorney Steve Giddens said Kilgore was “a good man” whom he has known since the 1970s. “He has been a victim of bad luck sometimes, what we call that Kilgore luck, but luck doesn’t have anything to do with today. He is dedicated to this community and he has worked hard day after day for 25 years, 13 of those years as chief deputy. Like Judge King said the other day, kudos to the governor on this appointment, and know that I will do anything I can to help you out.”

After being greeted by a standing ovation, Kilgore said he “must be in the wrong room.” Looking at Studdard, he said “I don’t know if you thought I was joking, but I really will be picking you up to go to work on Monday. Being a supernumerary means you draw your pension, but you can’t actually quit.”

He continued “Other than God and my family, this is the most humbling experience of my life. I appreciate Gov. Bentley’s trust and confidence in me, and Sen. Fielding going to bat for me. And I’m grateful for everyone who sent letters on my behalf, or sent emails or made phone calls. I’m thankful for my friend and my boss, Sheriff Studdard, for all he’s done, his dedication and hard work. And I want to thank all the men and women in the department. I hope we can continue as we have been. You are real life heroes.”

Kilgore then introduced his family, and thanked them for “putting up with my career choice.”

“To protect and serve, everyone has to work together,” he said. “It takes everybody. I’m proud to call Talladega County my home, to work with my peers and hopefully we can all continue to work together. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There will never be another Jerry Studdard, and I’m not going to try and be. I can’t. But what I can do is use what he taught me about management and helping people. I’ll carry that legacy on, and he’ll still be around to help me do that. We’ll treat all people fairly, with dignity and respect, to help out the good guys and lock up the bad guys. This is your sheriff’s office, and we are committed to make our county safer and a great place to live, work, raise and educate your kids and play.”

The president of the Alabama Sheriff’s Association then presented Kilgore with his membership card.

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© 2013