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Rushing takes reins as new sheriff

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Steve Rushing wasappointed to the county’s top law enforcement position Tuesdayfollowing Sheriff Wiley Calcote’s resignation earlier in theday.

Rushing, 33, was sworn in as sheriff by 14th District CircuitCourt Judge Mike Taylor around 2:30 p.m. in an anteroom of theLincoln County Government Complex while Calcote pleaded guilty toone count of embezzlement by a public official in the courtroom ofthe same building.

“I feel honored to have been asked and appointed,” Rushing said.”I feel I can do a good job at it. I’ve been here for more than 10years.”

Supervisors discussed the appointment during an emergencyexecutive session at the courthouse Tuesday. The closed-doormeeting lasted all morning and resumed in the afternoon withRushing being announced as the new sheriff.

It was unclear whether a special election would be necessary tofinish the current term, which ends Dec. 31, 2007, said CircuitClerk Terry Lynn Watkins.

“We’re trying to clarify that with the attorney general’s officethis morning,” she said today.

The new sheriff was noncommittal about whether he would seekelection to his appointed office. Rushing cited a more immediateneed to restore credibility to the office.

“I don’t want to look that far down the road yet,” Rushing said.”First, I have to show the people of Lincoln County they have asheriff’s department they can count on. We’ve got great people andoutstanding officers who work here.”

Rushing said he could not discuss details of the department’srole in the investigation of the former sheriff.

“As far as the specifics of the investigation, I can’t commenton that,” he said.

Rushing met with on-shift sheriff’s personnel immediatelyfollowing his appointment and reassured them of departmentalstability. A second meeting for all department personnel was heldthis morning.

The new sheriff said he does not expect to make any immediatechanges in the department’s personnel or its policies andprocedures, but would take time to review those issues.

As an investigator for the last several years, Rushing saidthere were elements of the department, such as the jail, where hewas not intimately aware of the details of operation. He said heneeded to review those details before making any permanentchanges.

“I want to sit down and look at the policies and procedures andsee what the law says we can do,” he said.

Rushing, a lifelong resident of West Lincoln, has served undertwo sheriff administrations since he joined the department June 1,1996. He is a career law enforcement officer who obtained abachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University ofSouthern Mississippi in 1996.

Rushing said he does not expect the appointment as sheriff tointerfere with his duties as an elected member of the LincolnCounty School Board. He was elected to a six-year term on theschool board in 2003.

“There’s not a conflict of interest from what I’ve been told,”he said. “I’ve certainly enjoyed serving there and I think I canshare enough time between them to serve both offices.”

Despite the swiftness of the proceedings Tuesday, Rushing saidhe had time to research the ramifications of serving bothoffices.

“I had been asked to consider (the appointment) after theindictment was handed down, but the official request came thisafternoon,” he said.

Calcote was indicted last month on 15 counts, including 13felonies and two misdemeanors.

A plea agreement made Tuesday with District Attorney Dee Batesrequired Calcote to resign as sheriff and plead guilty to themisappropriation of 331 gallons of diesel fuel for his personalvehicle and tractor immediately following the devastation ofHurricane Katrina.