By Jo Rector
Amy walked into my office door and told me not to mark any appointments on Tuesday. When I asked why she explained that a friend had arranged a meeting with Sheriff Tom Spangler. The idea sounded solid since we’d never met the man and wanted to find out what he thought on several issues before election day.
We arrived on time, something that almost always occurs since my OCD requires me to be places early. We waited a few moments until Amy’s friend could join us. Soon, we walked into the office of Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler. To my surprise, he was dressed in a coat and tie instead of a uniform. For some reason, I liked the fact that this man took a professional approach to the job.
We sat and chatted for a bit until all were comfortable. Like a good journalist, or more accurately like an older person who might forget the questions he wanted to ask, I had my notebook and pen out and was ready to go. I learned that the sheriff is the brother of a person whom I admire: Bruce Spangler, CEO of Volunteer Ministry Center. After more small talk, the questions began. They revealed many positive things about the man in office.
Amy asked why anyone would want such a difficult job. Spangler laughed and told my wife that was a good question. Then he said that several factors have gone into the decision. First, he loves Knoxville and its people. A graduate of Carter High School, he is proud to have lived in the area for so many years. His next reason is about the department. Spangler oversees about one thousand employees, and he fights for them. That means he works to secure raises for officers and others so they and their families can afford the daily things of life. He defends his employees when they are in the right and works to correct things when they are in the wrong. His last reason is to continue to work on and complete some of the projects and programs he has introduced since taking office.
The sheriff sees the ever-growing population of Knoxville as an area of concern. Spangler says officers are working with a variety of problems and folks already, and an influx of new residents will only increase the heavy workload that they face. More men and women officers on the streets are needed, but the pool of qualified applicants has dwindled due to covid and salaries.
Believe it or not, the sheriff holds enormous respect for the news media. He knows they have jobs to do, but he says his priorities sometimes conflict with theirs. Spangler says that sometimes he can’t share information because an investigation is still underway, and although journalists have deadlines, he can’t reveal information that might hurt a case.
In his next term, Sheriff Spangler wants to re-introduce the DARE program to schools. He knows the effectiveness of it and believes it will prevent some future crime problems. He also says the homeless problem is increasing in the area and wants to work with agencies and other associations to find ways to work with individuals to prevent them from becoming entangled in the legal system.
He makes it clear that he isn’t a politician. Most important to him is working every day with officers, staff, and the community to make Knox County a good place to raise a family. He enjoys meeting people and finding out what their needs and concerns are. He’s learned much from working the polls and contacting people during the campaign.
I didn’t know anything about Tom Spangler when I walked into his office. I left impressed. He didn’t answer questions like politicians. Instead, he gave thoughtful, plain answers. He’s reached the pinnacle of his career and wants another term to finish the plans he has put into action. Tom Spangler treated us with respect and a feeling that he really does care about our county and its safety. I later discovered that any citizen can meet with Sheriff Spangler as we did. His door is always open to citizens. I’m glad I went with my wife to meet the man who has earned my vote.