Eric Pickle of Cave City took the position of jail administrator April 15 when former administrator Jeffery Adam took a position as a road deputy.
Sheriff Dale Weaver said he had no hesitation hiring Pickle for the position. He said Pickles' experience, education and work ethic made him the right man for the job.
"He has not disappointed me at all," Weaver said. "He's doing an excellent job."
The 34-year-old Pickle has served as a reserve deputy for a year in Independence County, worked three years and continues to work part-time at the juvenile detention facility in Batesville as a corporal and instructor. He even worked a brief time as a jailer in Sharp County before his promotion.
"We convinced him to come to work here," Weaver said. "When he did, he just did an outstanding job."
Pickle, who served in the National Guard from 1996 through 2004 as a combat engineer, is certified to instruct others in Taser classes as well as use of full force. He has even given the classes in Sharp County.
He is also continuing to further his career by pursuing a bachelor's degree in criminology from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro near his alma matter, Valley View High School. He has just a few credit hours of foreign language classes left to take before he is awarded his degree, he said.
Pickle said his interest in law enforcement came from watching his uncle. His uncle worked as a game warden and then as a police officer. Once Pickle left the military he thought a career in law enforcement might be the path for him.
"I felt like I had the right mindset and the patience it took to be in law enforcement," he said. "A lot of people don't. You need a level head and thick skin."
Pickle said he has high hopes for the jail. He hopes to update the county's booking system. He said the current system is obsolete and malfunctions frequently.
"One goal I have is to try to implement an updated information sharing network among the various county agencies that comprise our local justice system," Pickle said. "Information can then be shared between the sheriff's office, prosecutor's office, circuit and district courts and the detention facility. The result would mean increased public safety by making timely, accurate and complete offender information available to all criminal justice decision-makers."
There are programs available that can do just that, he said.
"There is a pilot project that was introduced in Faulkner County in 2003-04 with a great deal of success," Pickle said. "I believe that it is a good model that could greatly benefit Sharp County. Exploring funding options and getting inter-agency support are going to be critical in order to successfully modernize our current system. Efficient and accurate information exchange will improve revenues for the county as well as provide an improved justice process."
Pickle said the greatest challenge in his new position deals with staffing. While it is difficult to keep employees, partially due to budget constraints, he said others need proper training to perform their job to the best of their abilities.
"... staff training is another important goal. I would like to create a professional working environment within the jail that will encourage pride and increase retention among the jail staff. Safety will be improved as well," he said.
Pickle said he has already implemented some changes at the jail. The biggest change is in organization.
He reorganized the work flow in the jailers' office to other areas of the jail. Moving things around helps everyone work more efficiently and has come in extremely handy during busy times, he said.
"You have to be a pretty good organizer and administrator," Weaver said, adding that the job often has employee issues arise such as scheduling conflicts.
Scheduling conflicts are something Pickle already knows all too well. The jail has a total staff of nine jailers, but Pickle said he can always use more part-time employees. With vacation season underway, Pickle said he found himself working double shifts during the Memorial Day weekend to cover for employees who were off work.
In order to have things work efficiently, the jail administrator needs to have a good personality and work well not only with employees but inmates as well, Weaver said.
"I'm just really pleased that he is part of the department," Weaver said.
Pickle said he hopes things continue to go well while he serves in his position.
"Sheriff Weaver, Chief Deputy (David) Huffmaster and the employees at the detention center are great people to work with and have been very supportive. I hope that I can in turn serve them to the best of my abilities," he said.