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DeKalb County sheriff leaves office early, Governor appoints sheriff-elect to fill the position

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FORT PAYNE, Ala. – With the new year comes a change in leadership at the DeKalb County Sheriff’s office.

“Yesterday about three p.m. I got a call to check my email,” said Sheriff Nick Welden, “The Governor’s office had sent me an email. Basically, I opened my email and Governor Ivey was appointing me at 12:01 a.m. to take over the office here as DeKalb County Sheriff.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey appointed Welden, who was elected in November, to the job two weeks early. Read Governor Kay Ivey’s appointment letter here. Welden had been anticipating a January 14th start date, as planned.

“We got sworn in at 12:01 by the Circuit Judge-elect Andrew Hairston, then I turned around and swore in the command staff, which is what you have to do to take over, and we moved forward from there,” Welden said.

Welden added he didn’t know prior to Monday he would be taking office two weeks earlier than scheduled.

Outgoing sheriff Jimmy Harris said he cleaned out his office Monday afternoon after county officials told his staff he would be leaving two weeks earlier than anticipated.

“It was a total shock to every one of us that was leaving,” Harris said “We didn’t know anything about it.”

Harris told WHNT he had planned to work in office another two weeks and wanted to meet with Welden closer to his last day to go over the transition. Harris had previously announced he was leaving for medical reasons. He said he wasn’t contacted by Ivey’s office.

Harris said he filled out on the state retirement system paperwork that he would retire effective January 1. He added he was told by several officials that was just a retirement from the state retirement system, not his position as sheriff.

DeKalb County Administrator Matt Sharp said Harris’ term was to end on January 13, and Welden’s term was to start on January 14. However, after looking into the regulations, Sharp said they realized that couldn’t happen, because he said employees can’t be paid after they retire.

Sharp said the retirement system requires retirement to start on the first day of the month. As a result, Harris’s last day was December 31. Sharp said then Sheriff-elect Nick Welden wanted to know who would be sheriff in the interim.

The DeKalb County Commission contacted the Association of County Commissions of Alabama to ask for input about Harris’s retirement. They were referred to the governor’s office, who asked them to provide the paperwork and the governor’s office took it from there.

Sharp said Jimmy Harris is the first sheriff in the county who has retired under the state retirement system. The others had retired through the county. He added if Harris hadn’t retired effective January 1, he would have been paid to the 13th and finished his term as sheriff.

“This is all I’ve done for almost 30 years,” Harris said. “I want to see the sheriff’s office be successful.”

Michael Edmondson, who was the chief deputy under Harris, said he didn’t know about the change until county officials notified him Monday afternoon.

“I appreciate the time I was able to spend working at the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office, and I enjoyed serving the people of DeKalb County,” Edmondson said.

WHNT News 19 has also confirmed that Brad Gregg, the Mentone Police Chief, is the new Chief Deputy at the sheriff’s office. Gregg’s replacement is Gene McKee.

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