By Seth Littrell
Register News Writer
Madison County Sheriff Mike Coyle announced Thursday he would seek election for a full term in 2014.
Coyle was serving as chief deputy when Sheriff Jerry Combs died in May, and Judge/Executive Kent Clark appointed him to serve out the rest of Combs’ term.
Coyle said he chose to run as a way to be there for his co-workers and to continue with the vision he and Combs’ shared for the sheriff’s department.
“I reached a point where I was going to have to make a decision to run for another term, to give my staff a little direction where they felt comfortable,” Coyle said.
Coyle said the department’s staff are all friends, and they have grown closer while grieving for Combs and continuing their work for the community.
He said the sheriff’s department has several needs, such as replacing older vehicles, increasing staff and improving salaries. If elected for a full term, Coyle said he would work to see those needs were met.
His decision to stay with the department and seek a full term as sheriff was affected by Combs’ unexpected death, Coyle said. Having come out of retirement at Combs’ request after a law-enforcement career spanning more than 30 years, the current sheriff said he originally had no long-term plans for staying with the department.
“I got in on this because I was helping a friend,” Coyle said.
He said his original plan was to stay with Combs for his first term, help him get re-elected, then go back to his private business of building cabinets and furniture. However, Coyle said he enjoyed being in law enforcement again, and now that he is sheriff wants to continue with the ideas he and Combs had started with.
Under Combs’ leadership, Coyle said the department made many changes in the way the office operates and increased the number of employees.
The sheriff’s department has several responsibilities in addition to their 24-hour patrols. Deputies provide security for the courts, oversee prisoner transfers, collect taxes and serve papers such as court orders and subpoenas.
“Really, the law enforcement aspect of it is probably about fourth down the list,” said Deputy Willard Reardon, public affairs officer for the department.
But Coyle said he’s working to increase the department’s law enforcement work.
“We’ve strengthened our criminal investigation unit,” Coyle said. “We have two detectives assigned to that now.”
He also said he is applying for grants to strengthen the drug-enforcement unit, noting that a large portion of the county’s crime involves illegal drugs.
Another program Coyle said he would like to expand is home incarceration. He said it saves the county money and helps alleviate jail overcrowding.
“It’s grown from about 20 to 70 (inmates) right now, and 100 is the goal.”
The program is “on the rise,” and other counties are looking at it as a model for their own home-incarceration projects, Coyle said.
Reardon said he and the other members of the sheriff's department support Coyle in seeking election.
“It gives us an opportunity to finish what Sheriff Combs started,” Reardon said. “We felt obligated to him. There were things that didn’t get done before his passing, and we want to try to continue that mission.”
Seth Littrell can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6623.