More than 400 people turned out to support Sheriff’s James Berrong’s re-election campaign during a May 14 reception at Lambert Acres.
Berrong said he was humbled by the number of people who came to the reception and those who called to wish him well. Nearly $70,000 was raised at the event.
“I am humbled with the response we had and the support people have given me and support people give me everyday in my political career and personal life,” he said.
Berrong said raising money is the part of the electoral cycle he doesn’t like. “Whether you agree with it or not you have to raise money. Even if you don’t have an opponent, it’s expensive. I’m humbled by the support. We’re still selling tickets, and the party is over.”
Berrong has been in office since 1989 when the Blount County Commission appointed him to replace Sheriff Avery Mills who was arrested on corruption charges. Berrong said he and his department would continue to work hard on a daily basis to protect the community. “The next four years, we want to continue to be more proactive than reactive. We don’t experience a lot of the problems other counties experience,” he said. “This is not by accident.”
District Attorney Mike Flynn said one of the things he’s noticed in meeting with other prosecutors around the state is how well-respected the law enforcement agencies in Blount County are. “Sheriff Berrong has improved our sheriff’s office and done good things in the community,” Flynn said.
County Mayor Jerry Cunningham praised Berrong for his work with the department and said 95 percent of the residents, based on the sheriff’s last election results, voted for and agreed with how Berrong runs the department. “I’ve known him all his life, and he’s the epitome of a law enforcement officer,” Cunningham said.
Former Gov. Don Sundquist praised Berrong for his work. “I just think he’s a great sheriff. He’s a person of integrity, and he’s there for anybody who needs him,” Sundquist said. “I’ve seen a lot of public officials in my career, and he’s one of the best.”
Darrell Harrell of Blount County showed up to support Berrong. “We’ve not always agreed, but you can’t deny he’s a fine man,” Harrell said.
Loudon County Chief Deputy Tony Aikens said he’s been in law enforcement 33 years and there have been many occasions where his department has had to call on the Blount County Sheriff’s Office for help. The year Loudon County Sheriff’s deputy Jason Scott was shot and killed, Blount County deputies manned the communications center and patrolled the roads of Loudon County to allow the personnel to attend funeral services.
“He’s been a great public servant to the citizens of Blount County,” Aikens said. “We just can’t thank him enough.”
Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp said he and Berrong have known each other a long time. “We started out cutting our teeth together in law enforcement years ago,” Crisp said. Crisp said Berrong has led the sheriff’s office well. “It’s a sheriff’s office that is second to none, and I’m proud to work with him,” he said.
Crisp said Berrong opened his department up and allowed the Maryville Police Department to use facilities at the Justice Center while the new municipal building was under construction. “We did that for three years. We appreciate his willingness to open the doors of the department,” he said.
Doug Anderson with Foothills Striders said Berrong is doing a good job. Anderson was a member of the second Citizens Law Enforcement Academy at the Sheriff’s office. “I was so impressed with how well the department is run,” Anderson said.
Former Blount County Executive Bill Crisp said Berrong has a good attitude about his position. “He tries to do a good job,” Crisp said.
County Commissioner Peggy Lambert said she was Berrong’s first campaign manager. “He had 13 opponents, and we worked 24/7 for weeks. The best candidate won, and he’s done a great job,” she said.