BONIFAY - More than seven months have passed since John Tate was sworn into office as Holmes County Sheriff, and the first-term sheriff says he is pleased with progress his office has made since January.
"I am proud to say that I have fulfilled all my campaign promises," Tate told the Times-Advertiser in an interview last week. "We have better law enforcement coverage encompassing the county with more deputies on the road and the reopening of the Ponce de Leon substation, as well as being able to place a school resource officer at each school."
Tate has also taken over as E-911 coordinator, with dispatch operations scheduled to move to the county's Emergency Operations Center on Highway 90 on August 23.
More than 200 arrests have been made in the past seven months, with the majority of those being for charges related to methamphetamine - but Tate stresses he doesn't want to just arrest those with drug addictions. He has also launched programs to help addicts recover.
"We are looking at alternative solutions to the county's drug problem," Tate said. "We have been able to get several people in recovery programs in lieu of jail, and we still invite anyone who needs help to contact us."
Tate is also part of "Celebrate Recovery," a multi-county, multi-agency effort to provide drug education and recovery resources to the community.
Additionally, has established "Faith Pods" which give inmates who meet certain standards and who have expressed a desire to reform the option of being placed with like-minded inmates who wish to include Christian fellowship in their time at the jail.
"It's definitely not good to live behind bars without any Christian influence," said Tate. "By being surrounded by like-minded people, these inmates can build each other up and talk and grow together."
The sheriff also implemented a jail garden, which is tended to by inmates and adjusted visitation to be more "family friendly."
Tate is also looking to provide better care for Holmes County's elderly and special needs residents with the implementation of the Seniors And Law-Enforcement Together (SALT) and Project Lifesaver programs.
The SALT program is an optional database of elderly or other at-risk residents, with a representative from the sheriff's office - sometimes the sheriff himself - calling daily to check on the elderly or disabled. Project Lifesaver is an optional program that provides a personal transmitter that emits a signal so that if an enrolled resident goes missing, the caregiver can notify law enforcement, who can locate the missing person more quickly.
From a fiscal standpoint, Tate is looking to streamline the sheriff's office, eliminating some positions he said were no longer needed due to technological advances which allow duties to be assumed by another staff members.
Looking forward, Tate is planning on implementing video jail visitation, which would allow remote visits for loved ones of inmates through a system that safeguards what images can be transmitted. He is also looking to bring back the Holmes County Mounted Posse, add Public Service Officers, and launch a youth Explorers program.
"It's a work in progress," Tate said. "I am proud of the things we have done so far and look forward to building on that in the years to come."