Sevierville, Sevier County (WVLT) - Nearly a month has passed since the death of Sevier County Sheriff Bruce Montgomery, but now there's a new sheriff in town. On Monday, the county commission appointed the department's longtime Chief Debuty to the post, but it wasn't without some criticism of the appointment process.
Chief Ron Seals traded hats from Chief Deputy to Sheriff after the county commission appointed him to the position.
"Had a lot of emotion in thinking back to the good times that we had with Sheriff Montgomery and the work that we've done, and I'd like to continue that work that he started," Appointed Sheriff Ron Seals says.
But the commission's vote wasn't without criticism. Former candidate Brad Lowe said no one on the steering committee bothered to check his references and pointing out some of the commissioners were Seals employees.
"What appearance does that leave? Was it a done deal? Did the county waste it's money in advertising?" Former Candidate Brad Lowe says.
All three sheriff's employees said they were voting the will of their constituents.
"They've all said, Phil, you vote. That's why we put you in there for is to be our voice," Sevier County Commissioner Phil King says.
In the end, three votes didn't matter as Seals received 24 out of the 25 votes of the commission members.
"He knows the insides of the sheriff's department from top to bottom and it was really and truly ...this interim appointment was not a choice in my mind," Sevier County Commissioner Bryan Delius says.
The new sheriff got plenty of congratulation hugs from officers and family.
"I'm so proud of him, really. I really thank the Lord for him," Seals mother Helen Stoffle says.
Seals says he hopes to improve school resource officers, specialized training, and technology in the department. But after nearly 30 years as Chief, getting used to a new title may be the toughest part of the new job.
"Some of the officers come to me said, 'Can we call you Chief Sheriff?' I said just call me at dinner just whatever," Sheriff Seals says.
Sheriff Seals says he plans to have an open door policy for residents, and says he does plan to run next year to fill the remaining two years of Sheriff Montgomery's unexpired term.