After reading the final primary election results at the Cleburne County Courthouse Tuesday, Probate Judge Ryan Robertson asked the people gathered to recognize Sheriff Joe Jacks who had announced his retirement prior to the election.
Those celebrating victories or mourning defeats took a moment to show their appreciation to the man who had served in law enforcement in the county for the last 38 years. The room resounded with applause. Jacks, who is serving his 12th and final year as Sheriff of Cleburne County will serve through Jan. 18. Then his newly-elected successor will take over Jan. 19, he said.
Jacks said he is looking forward to having more time to spend with his family. He has a granddaughter at Jacksonville State University he’d like to get to know better, he said.
“I’d just like to have some free time to loaf around a bit,” Jacks said.
And maybe take a trip or two with his wife, Faye.
Jacks has been in law enforcement since 1976 when he went to work for the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff Jack Norton, he said. He worked there for 18 years. He resigned in 1994 and went to work at the Heflin Police Department. He worked in Heflin for seven years.
Heflin Police Chief A. J. Benefield said he was Jacks partner at the Heflin Police Department. Jacks was a sergeant and Benefield was a patrol officer. They got to know each other well while working together, Benefield said.
“He was easy to get along with,” Benefield said.
Because Jacks had been a member of the community for so long, he knew most everyone and even more importantly, he knew how everyone was connected, Benefield said. It was a definite advantage when doing investigations, he said.
Benefield said he learned a lot about patience when working with Jacks. Jacks taught him to take his time with investigations, to work thoroughly, Benefield said.
Mayor Rudy Rooks said he worked with Jacks as chief of the Heflin Fire Department and when he served as county coroner.
“He was very thorough,” Rooks said. “He was firm but he was fair. He treated everybody with respect.”
While he worked at the Heflin Police Department, Jacks ran for sheriff three times. The third time was the charm and Jacks was elected in 2002. He took office in 2003. Benefield went with Jacks to the sheriff’s office. They worked together another three or four years, Benefield said.
Since becoming sheriff, Jacks has supported programs that have helped the city and the community, city administrators said.
“We would not be where we are today without Joe (Jacks) supporting the inmate work program,” said Tammy Perry, director of Heflin Parks and Recreation Department.
The city has been using inmate labor through the program for at least 17 years, Perry said. For the last 10 years inmates have been on the city payroll, she said.
Without the inmates’ hard work, the disc golf course never would have happened, Perry said. Inmates helped clear shooting lanes for the Heflin Archery Park, she said.
Councilman Travis Crowe also takes inmates out on the city streets and in the parks to clean up trash, Perry said.
Ryan Robertson, Cleburne County Probate Judge, said he has gotten to know Jacks well during his term as sheriff. As a lawman, Jacks “sets the bar for everybody else,” Robertson said.
“I have a great respect for him,” Robertson said. “I kind of look to him almost like a dad.”
Robertson has gone to Jacks for advice when working with some of the mentally ill people he has to deal with as probate judge. Sometimes, Jacks can come up with a solution he hadn’t considered, Robertson said.
But Robertson also enjoys spending time with Jacks outside the office. Jacks and Robertson are both golfers, Robertson said. Of the two, Jacks is the better golfer, but Jacks never makes him feel bad about it, he said. If he hits a bad shot, Jacks’ll pull out another ball and say, “we’ll let that one go,” Robertson said.
Jacks said it’s going to be hard to retire. He thinks he might still spend some time at the office after he’s retired.
“It’s just hard to get in my mind that I’m gonna be free, that I can do what I want to do,” Jacks said.
But he said he’s ready to let go.
While the people he works with understand his desire to move on, some say it’s going to be hard to see Jacks leave.
“He always had the city and the county’s best interest at heart,” Rooks said. “It’s really sad to see someone like that move on.”