Sunday, July 24, 2011
Zach Scott, Franklin County Sheriff
On July 11, 2011, I stood in the auditorium of the Franklin County Court House watching an old friend taking the oath to become the 52nd Sheriff of Franklin County. As I stood and listened to a few brief speeches that followed the pomp and circumstance of an entry by the sheriff's honor guard and a salute by the fife and drum brigade I was witnessing an historic day that I knew I some day would. I knew this several years ago actually, and now the moments that would make Zach Scott the top law enforcement officer in the county was here.
Before the gallery and dignitaries filed into the room where Sheriff Scott would stand in perhaps his proudest moment as a cop I had been mingling and being reacquainted with a number of old friends and a few former foes that I had worked with or just been near to during my own tenure as a deputy sheriff. I was as happy to see some of them as I was bewildered about the attendance of others. Some who had shown up to witness the official changing of the guard were people I was sure were only there just to be seen. It is like that sometimes.
It was as easy for me to pick out those who were as satisfied as I was that the right man had been chosen for the job as it was to recognize those with self-serving motives, or those who only came out of their own curiosity or on the behalf of someone else. One thing I have always believed I was good at is reading the faces of others.
Spotting a phony smile or chuckle is an easy craft to hone for anyone who has worked in political circles as long as I have. (More than 25 years.) And make no mistake about it... the sheriff's position may be the highest profile position of all elective offices on a local level because it it is often the most visible and often not without controversy. Sheriff Scott knew this long before this day and especially when it was first announced in the news media that he would succeed his former boss Sheriff Jim Karnes who had passed away just a few weeks previously.
Persons with old axes to grind came out of the dark crevices of anonymity to express outrage of Zach's selection to become the new sheriff. Responses to a story published in the Columbus Dispatch were filled with hatred and laced with pathetic insults aimed at him, his family, his supporters and even dead sheriff's personnel who had nothing to do with his appointment. Old wounds were opened and picked at like scabs and unfair phony accusations and comparisons to former controversial Franklin County Sheriff earl O. Smith and his closet supporters were being written by one or two disgruntled people who didn't have the spirit of conviction to sign their real names to their vitriolic opinions.
These one or two letter writers wrote several op-ed pieces and used different pen names on each one to make it appear as though droves of other people were writing them. It wasn't difficult to realize that it was the same person in most instances because the same tired old complaints were only reworded with the same misspelled words.
And on this day I suspected that one or more of these people were on hand to witness what I know will be a long and successful run for our new sheriff. I know this because I know this lawman. He and I graduated together from the sheriff's training academy as new officers before two and a half decades got us to this moment, and all through those years we have stayed in touch as friends and have worked in harmony for the same goals.
The obvious forced smiles and half hearted applause by a few inside that room were easy to distinguish between the heartfelt ones from those only doing it in the name of protocol. And sadly too many of those were from people I also knew and who unless zebras are sometimes spotted instead of striped were faking every emotion.
I have been following Sheriff Scott's dream of this day for a number of years and I know that he is acutely aware of the challenges that will come not just with the job, but from those he is surrounded by. Both the good guys, the bad guys and the bad good guys. The proverbial bandwagon is getting longer by the day because of the many who now know that it is probably a pretty good idea to get on it. Sheriff Scott will see a list of friends grow to a number that may boggle the mind. People who just six months prior to the reason we were all here today either didn't know his name or who did know it but wouldn't have bothered to greet him on the street.
That isn't just politics it is the way of people. We all celebrate someone else's success in our own way but some of us are a little more discrete in how we do so. Those of us who are truly happy for them usually don't have to tell them more than once while some who go over the top in their zeal to be reckoned with are only doing so to ensure they will not be forgotten.
Thankfully and to the benefit of all he serves Sheriff Scott will be a hard one to fool.