Ana Franklin made history when she became the first-ever female sheriff in Morgan County. Ten other female sheriffs came before her in state history, but Franklin is the only one still in office.
For as long as she can remember, Franklin wanted to be in law enforcement.
“When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be Columbo,” said Franklin. “I didn’t want to be a police woman, cause she was kind of fou-fou. I wanted to be Columbo.”
Similar to Columbo, Franklin was consistently underestimated. When she announced her candidacy for sheriff in 2009, she says people told her it wasn’t “ladylike” and laughed in her face.
“Some of those things really hit home to me about some of the ideas that we still have and that we carry in the south, particularly,” said Franklin, “and the fact that this is a barrier that hasn’t been broken.”
Franklin was born and raised in Decatur graduating from Austin High School. After she married, she moved to Athens, where she and her husband ran a wedding planning and catering service for 11 years. Franklin later divorced and returned to her hometown.
With the support of her family, she finally began to follow her dreams.
“I had a family background that gave me the opportunity again to be able to do things,” said Franklin. “They didn’t tell me you can’t do this and you can’t do that.”
Franklin got her start as a reserve deputy in the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office. From there, she became a K-9 handler.
Then she moved to the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department, where she began working in undercover narcotics, as well as criminal investigations and search and rescue.
It was her work in narcotics, though, that found her on the other side of the law. While undercover during a prostitution sting, an outside agency accidentally arrested her.
“I mean, I was truly undercover,” said Franklin. “Yeah, I never got to work the thousand-dollar a night prostitution deals. They put me down at the 20 dollar a night prostitution deals, those were the kind I worked.”
Franklin’s fearless attitude helped her win the election in 2010, but she says it is her faith that has helped keep her focused.
“A lot of faith, and it’s a lot of time on your knees, truly,” said Franklin.
While she knows she is a role model for all little girls across the county, Franklin just tries to set a good example for her two daughters and her two grandchildren.
“I hoped that my girls would see that if you try to do what’s right and if you just keep trying and you don’t give up that sometimes it pays off.”
As for Franklin’s short time in office, she has already shaken up the department. From the second she was sworn in as the county’s newest sheriff, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work determined to clean up the department.
Her first year was far from easy, but that hasn’t discouraged Franklin from leaving her mark on the office. She is, after all, the new “mama” in town.
“I kid my guys and say hey, you got a mama for a sheriff so y’all better act right,” said Franklin.
Franklin was charged with the task of restoring the public’s confidence in the department when she took the reins.
“I knew that when I walked in it wasn’t just the community and the county that we had to show that what we were doing was going to work, it was the employees too,” said Franklin.
Once in charge, Franklin immediately demoted and then later fired the commander of the department’s drug task force. She also had to arrest some of her own employees. Then came the budget cuts followed by the April 27th storms. Throw in the county’s ever-growing fight against drugs and Franklin’s limited staff was nearly backed into a corner.
You will never hear Franklin make excuses.
“Right now, we have huge challenges that we’ve never had before, so we have to be able to try and research a plan, put the best plan that we can in place and if that plan does not work, we got to go immediately to B, C, or D,” said Franklin.
She’s looking for solutions to the department’s budget problems in any place possible, including hanging the jail’s laundry on a clothes line instead of putting it in dryers.
“We have saved almost $60,000 in electricity,” said Franklin. “Well that $60,000 keeps me a deputy on the road, so if I have to hang clothes out on the line to keep a deputy on the road that’s what we’re doing.”
Her deputies are overextended, but continue to donate more of their time so they can be proactive in the county. The To-Do List continues to grow, but Franklin knows change isn’t going to happen overnight, but she says it will happen before her term is up.
“Part of my job here is when I leave, whenever that is, when I leave to leave this place better than when I found it,” said Franklin. “I think that should be the goal of every person in office.”
Other changes Franklin has made within the department include adding school resource officers to Brewer and Danville High Schools, as well as building relationships with the local volunteer fire departments. She also plans to institute a work release program at the jail and bring back the department’s helicopter program.