When he left office just two years ago, former Sheriff Wayne Anderson said he had to keep reminding himself that the phone wasn’t going to ring with yet another emergency. “I’ve been on call since 1977. Every single day, 24/7,” he said.
For nearly half a century, Anderson put his life on the line, first as a reserve deputy for the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department, then 24 years as a Kingsport police officer and finally 20 years as the county sheriff. That takes a toll.
“I always believe that God has a plan for everybody; He really does. He had a plan for me,” Anderson once said.
Anderson passed away Sept. 5.
That plan included a lifetime of service, not just to the community in law enforcement but to his fellow man, to children, to God’s creatures.
He first entered law enforcement in 1972 as a reserve sheriff’s deputy. Two years later, he joined the Kingsport Police Department working as a patrol sergeant and sergeant over the department’s vice and narcotics units, and as a detective. But he loved dogs, and worked extensively with K9 units.
He served six years on the Sullivan County Commission and was elected sheriff in 1998, serving until 2018. Under his leadership, the department gained and maintained national accreditation.
He credited all the department’s employees with that success.
“We are a team,” he said. “I demand integrity. I think (the public) demands that out of me, and I demand it out of our officers.”
In 2012, Anderson was named that year’s recipient of the Buford Pusser Officer of the Year award, named for the Tennessee sheriff made famous by the “Walking Tall” movies. He twice sued the county for more officers and better pay for deputies, and worked on the design of the Blountville Justice Center and then-new Sullivan County Jail.
Anderson was active in many civic groups, a 1987 graduate of the Kingsport Chamber’s Leadership Kingsport program, and served on the board of the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association. His faith was deep and he made sure the county jail included a chapel and worked with local pastors to provide worship opportunities to inmates interested in attending. At Christmas each year, Anderson was known to don a Santa suit and, with local pastors, go from cell to cell, delivering small gifts collected and donated by local churches to each inmate. Anderson was a member of Higher Ground Baptist Church.
He was also credited with having created and implemented multiple programs designed to serve the county’s children, especially those with greater needs. Those include the Toys From Cops program at Christmas and the annual trunk-or-treat party at Halloween.
Sheriff Anderson used most of his life to give back. He has left us for a greater reward, but he will not be forgotten by those who loved him and those he served.