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Five candidates approved and certified through the state went through an interview process tonight (Thursday, June 22, 2017) with the Fentress County Commission to permanently fill the midterm seat of sheriff.

Each candidate was given a maximum of 20 minutes each in answering 10 selected questions approved by CTAS (County Officials Certificate Training Program) then follow-up questions from commissioners. The names of the five candidates were then put into a container and drawn one at a time to be interviewed.

The five interviewed included Interim Sheriff Gary Ledbetter, James Conatser, Rodney Insco, Michael Reagan and Tommy Rosecrants.

As one candidate was interviewed by the commission, the others waited in a nearby room for their chance to ensure different answers to nearly the same questions. None of the candidates knew what questions would be asked by the commissioners prior to the interview. In fact, even the county commissioners had no idea of the questions. The questions were sealed by CTAS officials and opened by county commissioners as the meeting got underway.

County Executive J. Michael Cross told those in attendance that the county followed the process to make sure each candidate was qualified through the state to be eligible to be considered. The interview process then got underway with John Mullinix serving as moderator.

The first name drawn to be interviewed was Michael Reagan. Regan was asked if he would keep the present staff at the sheriff’s office which he replied he would. When he was asked to define the word integrity, he responded with working hard and working to do a good job. When asked if deputies need to be accountable for actions unbecoming, Reagan said that if a deputy breaks the law they need to be held to the same standard as citizens. When asked about accessibility to the public as sheriff, Reagan replied he would be in the office early each day and make his cell phone number public where citizens could reach him easily. Reagan previously served as chief deputy for four years and was over a narcotics division.

The second to be interviewed was Fentress County Interim Sheriff Gary Ledbetter. When asked to define integrity, Ledbetter responded with a person with high morals and above reproach. When asked about retaining the current staff, Ledbetter replied yes. One commissioner on a follow-up question asked Ledbetter about action he would take to cut down on comp time that built up under the former sheriff. Ledbetter responded with once he is fully staffed, he will take action to bring the comp time down. A final question was asked to Ledbetter about why he wanted to be sheriff of Fentress County. His answer was fast and to the point. “With 30 years in law enforcement, this is what I have wanted to do all my life. I have by far the most experience than any other candidate you will interview tonight. We are stabilizing this department and keeping the morale up in the aftermath of what happened with the former sheriff. Things are getting better every day and continuing to be that way.”

The third candidate to be interviewed was James Conatser. When asked about integrity, Conatser replied with doing the right thing when no one is watching. He told commissioners in an answer to a question that he would have policies in place for the department. When he was asked about why he wanted to be sheriff, he replied that it was high time that Fentress County had a trustworthy dependable sheriff’s department. When asked about his goal to unify the department, he replied with simply winning back the trust of the people. Conatser previously served as a detective, chief deputy and a training officer.

The fourth candidate was Tommy Rosecrants. He served as chief investigator in Overton County and formerly had a multi-million dollar construction company in Florida. When asked about more access to the people, he replied with he would assign zones for the officers to patrol to cut down on response times and fuel expenses. Rosecrants told the commission that at one point, he was asked to work for the former sheriff of Fentress County which he declined knowing things were not getting done. When asked about why he wanted to be sheriff, he replied with he honestly believes he can make the department the best it can be.

The final one to be interviewed was Rodney Insco who served with the Baxter Police Department and as a supervisor for a produce plant in Crossville. When asked about people having access to him if he was sheriff, he said he would be available 24/7. When asked why he wanted the job, he replied that he wanted to show Fentress County what the sheriff’s office can do with the right leader. He added that he would assign zones for deputies to have better response times to incidents.

All five candidates had the same answers to three questions. They agreed to continue having inmates perform trash pickup and mowing. They also agreed that drugs is the biggest problem facing Fentress County. Two other replies of theft and jail expenses were mentioned in the biggest problems facing the county. All also started that they would retain the current staff at the sheriff’s department when asked if they would to save the county the expense of training new officers.

However, on one question regarding turning a blind eye to a minor offense, four of the five answered a strong no. But Tommy Rosecrant answered that sometimes you have to turn a blind eye to very small minor offenses. “Sometimes you have to look away in those instances,” said Rosecrants.

After hearing the answers from each candidate separately, all five candidates returned to the main room and was told about the timeline for a decision. Commissioners will vote to approve one of them to fill the vacant seat of sheriff at their next regular meeting at 6 pm Monday, July 17. That person will be sworn in as sheriff of Fentress County the following day, Tuesday, July 18 at 9 am at the courthouse in Jamestown.

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