MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. -- In less than a month, Morgan County will have a new sheriff.
Sheriff-Elect Ron Puckett is a familiar face -- serving as the Hartselle police chief and with the department for near 30 years.
The people of Morgan County spoke. "It's a privilege to and an honor to serve the citizens of Morgan County," said Puckett.
Puckett will still be Hartselle police chief until Friday, December 28 and will hold the title of sheriff starting January 15th. "It's a huge responsibility. You've got a large county to serve and protect."
There are lessons he plans to take with him -- putting a large emphasis on the importance of teamwork and respect. "You have to value the employees. You have to let them know that you care about them, you know who they are. And when they know that you would die for them, they're willing to do the same for you."
And much he wants to learn. "Oh, I've got so much room to grow. The court-side of the house, extraditions, doing civil processes. And then the jail -- the jail is a beast."
While some things are unfamiliar, he is going in with eyes wide open and looks forward to improving the office as a team.
Part of that team is newly appointed Chief Deputy, Lt. Chris Price.
Puckett will be taking the place of outgoing sheriff Ana Franklin -- who is currently facing two federal lawsuits.
Tuesday, Franklin agreed to plead guilty in federal court for failure to file a tax return. Puckett released a statement shortly after:
"I like most in Morgan County are disappointed in the news. However, we have been and will continue to be focused on the future. As our transition plans continue, I'm confident our best days are ahead of us."
Franklin did not run for re-election.
He sees a change in leadership as a new beginning. "I think most people are willing to open the door to somebody new and say 'hey, welcome, come in -- and you're welcome as long as you don't have to do anything to make me shut the door."
With the new year, he leaves this message for the people who are giving him a new badge. "I want to be able to prove to you that this sheriff's department will earn what needs to be earned."
Chief Puckett's last day at the department is next Friday. Lieutenant Justin Barley has been appointed by the Hartselle City Council as acting police chief of the Hartselle Police Department.