Limestone County, Ala. (WHNT)- Mike Blakely has been the Sheriff of Limestone County for nine terms. When he was elected in 1982, the average cost of a gallon of gas was $0.91 and the average car price was less than $8000. This week, Sheriff Blakely stopped by WHNT News 19 to talk about how things have changed since then. “To put in a little better perspective, I was about sixty pounds lighter also.” Sherriff Blakely joked. Though he has spent the last thirty three years on the job, he claims that “I definitely haven’t gotten burnt out. I love it because I love the people of Limestone County. I have a wonderful staff that works with me, but it’s changed so much. The reason why I haven’t gotten burnt out is because the job has changed so drastically in the last thirty years.” One thing that hasn’t changed though is Sheriff Blakely’s trademark cowboy hat. “It covers up my ugly head.” he joked.
Another way this state has changed is that when elected in 1982, the government was run by the Democrats. In 2015, the Republicans hold a Super Majority and Sheriff Blakely is one of the few Democrats left in elected office. “That was something that when I decided to run again this term last year, I knew that it was going to be difficult to get elected as a Democrat because there has been so much animosity. There is so much polarization between the citizens and the government and I think a lot of the things that has happened in Washington has alienated a lot of people from being able to vote for a Democrat here in Alabama. When I first ran in 1982, to be honest with you, I didn’t want to run as a Democrat or as a Republican, but at that time there were not enough Republicans to fill up a phone booth in Athens or Limestone County. I knew it was going to be tough this time because so many good public officials were defeated mainly because they had a D in front of their name. Probably if I had to run this year I would do it as an independent.”
The State of Alabama has a serious prison over population problem. Currently they are running at 200% capacity. Governor Bentley has appointed a task force to study the problem. One of the solutions in talks is minor sentencing reform in cases such as drug related charges where there would no longer be jail time involved. As a sheriff, would this kind of sentence reform bother him? Sheriff Blakely had this strong opinion to share, “If they are in there, and that’s what they are actually sentenced for, it is because they had four or five sell cases, distribution cases that they plea bargained and dismissed those and agreed to plead to the possession case because people don’t go to jail for the possession of Marijuana. It’s rare that they go to jail the first, second or third time for selling it. I mean people that are in prison, and folks need to remember this, they’re not in there for singing too loud in church. These are people that have repeatedly committed crimes or they committed a heinous act. You may have one or two, but you’re not going to solve an overpopulation problem by saying you’re going to decriminalize some of this stuff, that’s not going to be the case. One thing that concerns me is what the legislature is possibly going to do adding a Class D felony, and those people are going to wind up being sentenced to county jails. They are going to start reforming probationers and parole violators. Rather than them being violated and going to prison, they are going to come sit in our jails in kind of a time out. They come sit the weekend and turn them back out. This bill as it was originally written, and I don’t know, I haven’t seen it in any kind of form and I know it’s still in the Judiciary Committee there in the House right now. It has a section on people who are on community correction, parole, probation, if they mess up they come sit in jail for the weekend. They go back out and if they mess up, they come sit in jail another weekend, and then another weekend. They will do it three times before they actually have to go and sit for about thirty days in a state penitentiary. And well somebody is going to have to pay for that.”
To see more of what Sheriff Mike Blakely had to say, watch the full three part interview here: