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‘It still seems surreal,’ says Sullivan County’s incoming sheriff

Rain Smith • Updated Aug 3, 2018 at 1:53 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — As one man prepares to be Sullivan County’s first new sheriff in two decades, the outgoing veteran says he’s ready for life without the badge.

On Thursday night, five-term Republican incumbent Wayne Anderson was defeated by independent Jeff Cassidy, a former captain at the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office. Cassidy scored a resounding victory, taking 66 percent of the vote.

On Friday morning, Cassidy said he was “trying to soak it all up.”

“It still seems surreal,” Cassidy told the Times News. “My phone has blown up. I’m trying to respond to everyone. I don’t know if I’ll get to them all.

“Step one is complete,” Cassidy added. “Now I’ll begin talking to other people whose vision aligns with mine for the sheriff’s office and community. Everybody that works there is safe. Nobody has anything to worry about. I think I have leadership that will have a positive effect on them and the community.”

Meanwhile, the tone from Anderson was less jovial, but still upbeat.

“I’m disappointed, I’m sad, but I’m not devastated,” said Anderson. “Because I’ve worked at it so long — I’ve been in law enforcement 46 years — it’s time to rest. Time to spend more time with my family, travel some and enjoy life. That job (sheriff) can steal your joy sometimes.”

On Thursday night, Anderson announced he has prostate cancer and will soon be undergoing treatment. He received the diagnosis in May, after the Republican primary.

He hadn’t addressed the issue publicly out of concern that people would think he couldn’t handle the duties of sheriff while he was ill. He said his plans were to undergo treatments in Knoxville in the mornings, five days a week, then drive back to work in Blountville.

After the election defeat, however, Anderson concedes the voting results are probably the best for his health.

“Losing last night, that was God’s will,” Anderson told the Times News. “He knew what’s coming, my challenges ahead of me.”

Before taking the reins as sheriff on Sept. 1, Cassidy will continue working as the training coordinator for the police academy at Walters State Community College. He said he was relieved to have the political race behind him.

“If you put forth the work, good things will come,” he said.

“A couple of years ago, I thought, ‘I want to be a head executive of law enforcement,’ ” recalled Cassidy. “I think I bring a style of leadership that’s needed as a CEO for an agency. You want to be a positive role model. You’re only as successful as the success your people bring you.”

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