“I’ve been in this profession for 30 years, I’ve accomplished the goals I set out in Winston County and I’ve decided it’s a good time for someone else to take their turn as sheriff.”
Harris started his law enforcement career in Birmingham in 1978, and, although he only served one term as sheriff, he has been in Winston County in some law enforcement capacity since 2000.
“Anytime you have to make a decision that impacts an entire county, it isn’t an easy decision,” Harris said. “Much thought and prayer have gone into this decision. There is nothing easy about being sheriff; it’s a demanding role. The hours and requests are demanding.”
He said that many people were surprised about his decision, but he believes the department is headed in the right direction and there are others who are ready to move into the position and keep the county moving forward.
“I’m confident I leave this position having made a difference in my county,” Harris said. “I have improved on the system I found in ways that have made things better and safer for everyone.”
One of Harris’ accomplished goals is establishing an emphasis on enforcing drug laws by establishing a dedicated drug unit, which he said has increased the number of distributors and suppliers who have been arrested.
“We haven’t just focused on the addicts, we’ve gone for those at the top of the supply chain,” Harris said.
He also said he believes the staff at the sheriff’s office is top notch.
“We have raised the level of professionalism in our employees,” Harris said. “They are better equipped, they are more active in their professional development and interactions with other departments and agencies in our region.
During his tenure, Harris has also seen the completion of the Winston County Jail as well as the recruiting and training of jailers to staff it. The department’s vehicle fleet has been upgraded and each deputy now has access to a computer in the vehicle as well as in the office.
He has also begun a Smith Lake Patrol and the department has begun to work traffic accidents in the county, which is not common in rural counties.
Despite his decision not to run for sheriff, Harris still has a little more than a year left on his term and he plans to make the most of it by continuing to work on his objectives and being present and active in the community.
He said he also wants to finish some of his original goals for the office by the end of the year. He is working to implement a Master Deputy Program that would offer deputies the opportunity to specialize in a particular field to provide better service to the community.
Harris doesn’t have a lot of definite plans for retirement, but said he would not be seeking another political office.
“My plans are to enjoy the private life,” Harris said. “I feel it’s time to focus on personal matters and some interests and hobbies I have while I’m still young.”
Harris said that one thing he does plan to do is follow up on a suggestion he’s heard from numerous friends over the years.
“I’m going to write a book,” Harris said with a laugh. “I’ll probably give it away, but I’ll sell the movie rights.”