Fraley on taking office as sheriff: ‘Some tough days ahead’

Published 2:34 pm Friday, August 12, 2022

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Elizabethton Star
Mike Fraley joked on Friday that he doesn’t expect to see much of his wife in coming months.
“I told Brenda if she wants to see me she may want to hang a picture on the fridge,” said the sheriff-elect for Carter County.
Fraley, who takes office Sept. 1, has been hard at work since the Aug. 4 election preparing to take over a department facing a staggering staff shortage and the threat of jail decertification.
“We’ve been working every day this week,” he said. “We’re not getting paid yet, but we’re getting to work …”
“We” includes Fraley and Chief Deputy Jeff Gazzo, who is Fraley’s first official hire.
Gazzo brings more than 30 years of law enforcement experience to Carter County, including a career that spans patrol and training work. “He was a motorcycle cop in Fulton County (Atlanta) so that tells me he has a whole lot of bravery,” Fraley said. Gazzo most recently was director of the police academy in Charlotte, N.C., and held a similar role previously in Tennessee. Fraley said they met when Gazzo hired Fraley as a “very part-time firearms instructor.”
The two have watched as their individual careers developed, and Fraley said Gazzo was on his shortlist of candidates for the chief deputy position.
“He’s actually going to run the day-to-day operations of the department” such as personnel, writing policy, etc., Fraley said.
“Ultimately the buck stops with me as sheriff, but he will have free rein to do what needs to be done,” Fraley said. “We will be working together on a lot of hard, pressing issues.”
Among those are the lack of staffing. “We’re down 51 or 52 employees right now,” Fraley said. He is exploring ways to streamline job duties and free existing personnel to fill needs — such as school resource officers — as well as seeking outside the box solutions, such as offering short-term contracts to retired law enforcement officers to fill vacancies.
“I know I can’t get everything done overnight, but we’ve got some plans in place that should help in the short term,” Fraley said.
Fraley also faces the potential decertification of the Carter County jail, which is scheduled for a second inspection on Sept. 9.
“I realize I have some tough days ahead of me, but I know what I was signing up for and I’m going to give it the best I can give,” he said.

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