After nearly a quarter-century as Warren County Sheriff, Jackie Matheny has announced he will not seek another term, opening the door for a sheriff scramble.
“When I first ran for sheriff back in 1994, I prayed about it and I was convinced it was God’s will of where he wanted me,” Matheny said on Friday. “And, each time it came up again, I prayed about it. Now, I feel like it’s time to go.”
Matheny said he has no firm plans for his retirement. “I may take a couple of weeks off,” Matheny laughed, admitting he will get bored pretty fast if he is not doing something. However, he downplayed the possibility of continuing in politics, although not completely ruling it out.
“The good Lord has a way of accomplishing things in people’s lives,” Matheny said. “At this time I have no plans to run for any other office, but I’ve learned never to say never.”
As for his time in office, Matheny said he thinks he has been able to accomplish his goals but has also been disappointed by some situations.
“We went from an average of 44 inmates when I started to an average of 317,” Matheny said of the explosion of inmates being held at the overcrowded Warren County Jail. “That’s a huge change for a facility with 251 beds. There are times when we’ve had over 100 sleeping on the floor here.”
Matheny said that will likely be one of the biggest challenges for the person who follows him in office.
“At some point, the county is going to have to do something about another building program,” said Matheny, noting he oversaw the last building program which culminated with the newest edition of the jail in 2005.
Matheny said that as of the time of his official retirement at midnight on Sept. 1, 2018, he will be handing over a well-trained department which has been held to a high standard.
“Other agencies are all the time saying how professional our people are and that makes me proud,” Matheny said. “There have been some disappointments, obviously, but as a whole I’m happy with what we’ve done.”
As for particular cases, Matheny said he is proud the Paul Walker case was solved. The tire store owner was shot opening his business on Sparta Highway in the early 1990s and left paralyzed. His case went unsolved for well over a decade before it was solved with an arrest.
On the opposite end, Matheny said he is disappointed they have not been able to solve the Melba Mooneyham murder. She was shot through her front window while she slept. Lawmen remain stumped about her killer or motive for her murder.
“We are still trying and I hope and pray that we can solve it while I’m still in office and, if not, then by the person who follows me as sheriff,” Matheny said.
The question of who will follow him as sheriff will be answered next August. The expected field is already made up of at least four sheriff’s department employees, along with at least one city policeman and a few other rumored candidates. Matheny said he intends to keep out of the race and let it sort itself out. However, he said the best advice he can give to his successor is to be mindful of the jail.
“It’s a $6 million budget,” Matheny said. “The quickest way a sheriff can find himself having trouble is in the jail.”
A celebration of Matheny’s years in office will be held this July 18 at noon at Westwood Church of Christ’s fellowship hall.
"At this time I have no plans to run for any other office, but I’ve learned never to say never."