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'Where my heart is'

Staff Photo by L.A. Story

Tishomingo County Sheriff John Daugherty spent years traveling the state, but now enjoys staying put and making a difference at home.

By L.A. Story lastory@dailycorinthian.com

IUKA -- Tishomingo County Sheriff John Daugherty spent years traveling the state, but now enjoys staying put and making a difference at home.

Currently, Daugherty is about three years into his first term as sheriff. Previously, he worked as a training officer for the Mississippi Department of Transportation for about 26 years. That changed when he became sheriff and he couldn't be happier.

"I traveled the state when I worked for the Department of Transportation," said Daugherty. "Now, I get to be at home with my family and the community I've lived in all these years and grew up in. That's where my heart is - in Tishomingo County."

The sheriff's passion for his job and concern for his community are interconnected by necessity. He points out that clear lines of communication between his department and the community are vital for the benefit of the community and the level of effectiveness for his officers.

"We've been very fortunate with the community helping law enforcement in this county, as far as tips and supporting officers and all that's been great," said the sheriff. "It takes the people in the community. I've said several times if you have law enforcement in the community, and they are just riding around patrolling, it's just a bunch of pretty houses until they get in contact with the people, because the people are the ones that know what's going on. They need to make good connections. The community expects that from my officers, I think, and my officers know I expect that out of them, too."

He said the officers are encouraged to get out and speak to citizens and people are encouraged to come and speak with his department.

"If they do give us information, we will keep it confidential," he said. "We can't always go out when somebody says, 'Hey, there's a dope house in my neighborhood.' We can't just go without evidence. We have to work the neighborhood, do surveillance and work to follow up to make good cases."

In regards to the drug problems seen everywhere nowadays, Daugherty said he feels slowing down the supply into the country will help, but there needs to be more drug rehab programs. He said there is hope, but everyone will need to work together to fight to make communities better.

"It's so hard for people to get off of drugs and it seems like it touches every family some way. You want to help the users to get off drugs, but you want to prosecute the dealers," he said. "Sometimes it's hard to tell between the two because a lot of folks deal to get their own drugs. That's why I think Drug Court is such a plus to our community because it can help them break the cycle when sometimes a paid rehab doesn't have the consequences Drug Court does. Drug Court is a three-year program, so it's intensive."

There are goals which the sheriff would like work toward, and there are many things he is proud of. One of which is one of the things his department is doing with the Tishomingo County Jail facility.

"We're housing prisoners from Prentiss and Itawamba Counties. We lost our MDOC inmates back several years ago. So, we had a vacant facility over here that we have retrofitted and upgraded to be able to hold prisoners for other counties," he explained. "So, we're able to pay the debt to the taxpayers when they built this jail. We're able to make those payments again and take the burden off of the taxpayer for the first time in a long time. It's providing jobs for us, too. We've hired a few more jailers. The jail is actually paying for itself now, as far as the loan for the building of it. The Board of Supervisors have worked with us to make this happen. It's been a long process but we're making money and paying the bills."

Daugherty is married and has two grown children. In his spare time, he said he and his family like to go camping.

"We have a lot of campgrounds in this county," he said. "We have a camper, but I'm still here in the county, if I'm needed." He added, with a laugh, "I also enjoy fishing, when there's time."

In his position as sheriff, Daugherty continues to have definitive goals for his officers and his department. He said he wants to make it the best that it can be.

"My high hopes for the department is I want it to be one of the best departments in North Mississippi," he said. "I want to see officers trained. I was a training officer, so I want to send the best trained officer out there to the community that we can provide. Money is tight, but I think the community deserves an officer as good as one from the state, city or any other agency. When my officer arrives on the scene, I think he should be a trained officer and professional."

Daugherty said he has spoken with other sheriffs and police chiefs and people are not getting into law enforcement in the numbers that they used to. He pointed out that the pay isn't great, and the sacrifices required of the officer's families are tremendous. He said law enforcement is really more of a "calling."

"You have to really want it," said Daugherty. "Now, law enforcement is more of a calling to people who want to help their neighbors. It seems new officers these days are ones that want to give back to the community."

The sheriff understands the "calling" because he feels it himself.

"I want Tishomingo County residents to know I get up and go to work every day for them and I take my job seriously," said Daugherty. "I want to help them work through their problems. They can call on me anytime to help them. That's what I'm here for."