By SERINA MARSHALL
Washington County has a new interim sheriff.
On Monday, county commissioners appointed Keith Sexton, a Johnson City Police Department lieutenant, to the position.
Following a unanimous vote from the commission, Sexton was sworn into office by Washington County Chancellor John Rambo.
Sexton currently serves as a training unit supervisor and SWAT team commander for the police department.
“Thank you for your vote of confidence,” Sexton said. “I will not let you down.”
After 18 years as sheriff, Ed Graybeal retired in September. Sexton will serve the remaining months of Graybeal’s elected term in office. Sexton promises to run a “transparent” office for the county.
Sexton was one of three applicants for the interim sheriff position heard by the commissioners Monday night.
The credentials for the applicants to serve in the role were vetted by the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission.
The other applicants were current chief deputy of the sheriff’s office, Leighta Laitinen, and retired special agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Michael Templeton.
All applicants have shown interest in seeking the Republican nomination for Washington County sheriff in 2022.
Laitinen sent a resignation letter to Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy on Sunday declaring she is resigning from the sheriff’s office. She has worked at the sheriff’s office since July 1995.
Laitinen began her role as a clerk and worked her way up. The letter communicated to commissioners that her decision to retire is not based on her plan to run for sheriff.
“I did it to clear some things up,” Laitinen said, as she has helped take care of daily operations following Graybeal’s leave.
Sexton had told commissioners earlier in the meeting that he began his 30-year law enforcement career as a patrol deputy with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. He then went on to work for the Johnson City Police Department in 2008.
According to Sexton, residents want the sheriff’s office to be “more visible” in their communities.
Sexton said there isn’t a part of law enforcement he hasn’t been in when it comes to the county.
“I have literally shed blood, sweat and tears,” he said. “I’ve been planning to run for sheriff for 20 years.”
“This is not a whim,” Sexton said. “The people of Washington County deserve a sheriff who has law enforcement experience.”
Being named interim sheriff wasn’t the only good news Sexton and his wife Ashley received at the meeting. They also found out their newest grandchild had been born.