Thames new leader of state sheriffs association

Published 5:53 pm Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lawrence County Sheriff Joel Thames, who was recently sworn inas the new president of the Mississippi Sheriffs’ Association, saidhe might not have been there for the honor if things had gone alittle differently one day in May 2002.

“We had a deranged person on a killing spree that came into ourcounty. He had already taken two lives in Stone County, had shot atthree other people in Columbia,” Thames said. “When I encounteredhim on a road in Lawrence County, he shot into my patrol car ninetimes narrowly missing me. Only by the grace of God am I heretoday.”

Those kind of experiences are the things that make law enforcementso rewarding, but also such a challenge, he said. But daily, thereare smaller experiences that can be just as challenging.

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“In this job, you have to be fair and impartial. It’s toughsometimes trying to settle differences between two people,” Thamessaid. “You do what you feel is right in your heart when making adecision, and unfortunately sometimes one side is not happy.”

Thames said his road to being the leader of the MSA started threeyears ago when he was elected to the third vice-president position,and then as each one-year term passed, he moved up a step.

His main goal as president, Thames said, will be to build astronger alliance of the association with the Legislature inimproving law enforcement issues in the state.

“I want to build up our association to where we will have astronger voice dealing with criminal laws in our state,” hesaid.

Thames said he actually wanted to lead the association from earlyin his years as sheriff of Lawrence County.

“I have always tried to be a proactive person,” he said. “I enjoytrying to learn something new every day, and feel a person shouldalways try to better themselves. I knew going into my first termthat someday to be able to lead this association would be agoal.”

And yet, Thames hasn’t forgotten what brought him to the podiumlast week, being sworn in by Supreme Court Justice JessDickinson.

“We have 82 sheriffs in our state and I am proud to call each one afriend,” he said. “I appreciate them for thinking enough of me toelect me to this position.”

Closer to home, he said, he also remembers that no good leader getsanywhere without good troops behind him.

“I guess my biggest victories, other than being re-elected twice,would be being able to have solved three murders, two being a20-year-old unsolved case, and one a 10-year-old unsolved case,” hesaid. “But I firmly give credit to the men and women in mydepartment for being able to achieve that success.”

And part of his overall success also comes from the largerbrotherhood offered in MSA.

“I have asked and received much advice from other sheriffs, andother professional lawmen about how to succeed in the office assheriff,” he said. “I feel the main objectives of being successfulis to be fair, honest, trustworthy and by all means to help aperson in their time of need. Sometimes a person just needs someoneto talk to, but most of all someone to listen to them.”

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing, who was elected to third vicepresident last year, moved up to second vice president this year.He is slated to be MSA president in two years.

Thames succeeds Holmes County Sheriff Willie March. His term as MSApresident ends June 11 of 2011.