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Mark Pettway sworn in as Jefferson County’s first black sheriff

Mark Pettway is sworn into the Sheriff's Office by retired federal Judge U.W. Clemon. (Ameera Steward Photo, The Birmingham Times)
By Ameera Steward
The Birmingham Times

Mark Pettway addresses the crowd during swearing-in ceremonies at Greater Shiloh Baptist Church. (Ameera Steward Photo, The Birmingham Times)

Mark Pettway was sworn in Friday as Jefferson County sheriff, the first black to hold the office.

The ceremony was held at Greater Shiloh Baptist Church in a venue that Pettway said would be large enough for the general public to attend. Pettway was administered the oath of office by retired federal Judge U.W. Clemon.

The newly sworn in sheriff said he wanted to acknowledge former Birmingham mayor Larry Langford who died Tuesday at the age of 72. “I am here today because somebody gave me an opportunity, I would not be here if it wasn’t for that opportunity,” said Pettway. He then asked those of Fairfield to stand while he recognized Langford.

The Pettway family awaits the swearing-in ceremony at Greater Shiloh Baptist Church. (Ameera Steward Photo, The Birmingham Times)

“In 1993 Mayor Langford hired me and because of that, it propelled me to where I am, right here, today,” said Pettway.

He said he looks forward to working with his staff and thanked his fellow deputies. When it came to his family, Pettway became a bit emotional while also thanking them for their support.

Pettway, a Democrat, then reiterated much of what he campaigned on when he defeated Republican incumbent Mike Hale in the November general election.

“We talked about safe schools, we’re not going to have contract deputies in schools anymore….We’re going to have deputies in there that are hired by the sheriff’s department,” Pettway told the audience at Greater Shiloh. “We talked about bridging the gap between the community and law enforcement, we’re going to get out and do some community policing.

“Those that have mental health, we have training that’s coming for all of [the] deputies to make sure that you get treated the way that you need to get treated. And those that are incarcerated, I don’t know if you have someone in your family that is incarcerated or not, but if you do, we’re going to help them get an education and…we will help them get employed.”

Once released the inmates will not return to prison, Pettway said. “We’re going to stop the revolving door because we have something in place to stop the revolving door.”

Clemon said he was proud to be a part of Pettway’s historic

Mark Pettway gets a hug from his daughter, Markia, during swearing-in ceremonies. (Ameera Steward Photo, The Birmingham Times)

campaign but there is much work ahead.

“I felt that the time had come to have a black sheriff and that’s why I enthusiastically campaigned for him and helped to bring that about,” Clemon said. “With his election and after his investiture, I expect that greater concern will be shown for the welfare of inmates and the Jefferson County prison system.”