By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
Sheriff Mike Hale said Tuesday he’ll always be a part of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, but he’ll no longer be a part of politics.
For nearly two decades it seems as if Hale and the Sheriff’s office were one and the same. He was first elected in 1998 and has been a fixture since then. Hale, an incumbent Republican, bowed out gracefully on Tuesday after losing to Democrat challenger Mark Pettway in the race for Jefferson County sheriff.
“There’s going to be a new sheriff in town and it’s Mark Pettway and I want to congratulate Mark on running a great race and will make sure on behalf of the citizens of this county, there will be a very smooth transition,” Hale said.
Hale, 67, who has served as sheriff for 17 years, started his career with the Homewood Police Department in 1973 and joined the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in 1976.
Hale first took office in 1999 following a victory in the 1998 general election against incumbent Jim Woodward. However, the Alabama Supreme Court determined that Woodward had won the election by six votes.
In the 2002 election Hale won an outright victory against Woodward and has won re-election in every race for sheriff since.
For many deputies Hale is the only boss they’ve had. “It’s been an honor of my life to serve as their sheriff and we’ve made some great strides in public safety in this county,” Hale said. “I’ve won some close elections and I just thank my family for allowing me to run. I want to thank the citizens of the county.”
Hale said he’ll have time to analyze Tuesday election where he received 48.55 percent, or 121,469 votes to Pettway’s 51.39 percent, or 128,569 votes.
“I think the key thing right now is the deputies are going to keep answering the calls and in January they’ll be [Pettway’s] deputies and they’re a great bunch of men and women, well trained and he’s well trained. He’s going to do a good job.”
As for his family, Hale said, “I’m okay. We’ve got some great initiatives that we’ve got going . . . I’m fine.”
The sheriff made clear this was his last election. “In my future, there’s no more campaigning,” he said, “so it’s all been good. I appreciate the citizens of Jefferson County for electing me in the past, I’ve enjoyed working with them, this is my home and we’ll still live here and be a part of the community but I won’t be a part of politics anymore.”