Eric Watson reflects on his final days as Bradley County sheriff
Change comes to Bradley County this week as the newly elected sheriff takes over.
Steve Lawson defeated current Sheriff Eric Watson in the Republican Primary in May.
With no democrat in the race, Lawson takes over on Saturday.
Watson walked through the halls of the Bradley County Jail Tuesday as one of his last days in office, reflecting on the footprint he's leaving on his community.
"I see inmates all the time that's gotten out of jail, that's in church, that's got jobs," Watson said. "When you can help someone to better their life, especially their kids and wife that they live with, you've accomplished something in life."
Watson said the faith based program he started in the jail is working by rehabilitating offenders. But problems with the jail have plagued the department for years.
Channel 3 records show six inmates have died under Watson's watch over the last four years, the latest happening just last week.
Watson said it's a problem that won't go away if overcrowding, addiction and mental illness aren't addressed.
"Eighty percent of my inmates back here are some type of drug addicts or have some type of mental issues and 20 percent are just serving their time because they stole something," Watson added.
Watson also faced multiple investigations himself, including a felony 12-count indictment, but was never found guilty of any wrong-doing.
Complaints Watson said were politically motivated and led to one of the biggest lessons he learned in office.
"I've learned to be careful about trusting people from this point forward. A lot of people will say they're your friends but there's very few friends we have in life and I've learned this lesson," he added.
It's unclear what the future holds for Watson. He said he isn't ready to completely leave his 27 year career in law enforcement.
He hopes he will be remembered for his accomplishments and not the controversy he faced.
"I'm very proud of what we've done. We've ranked number 4 in the state for the most burglaries solved. Sixty-five percent overall solvability rate, that's more than any other administration has ever done. It's going to be hard to beat those numbers and I think we had a good thing going," Watson said.
Watson will officially hand over the keys at midnight on September 1st.
Lawson will be sworn in at 10:00 Saturday morning.