‘I have loved my job’: Hamblen Co. sheriff reflects on career, announces he will not seek re-election

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HAMBLEN COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — An East Tennessee lawman with a history-making tenure as sheriff says he won’t be seeking re-election.

Esco Jarnagin made the announcement last week. He’s served as Hamblen County’s sheriff since 2006.

The sheriff made clear he’s relied heavily on his faith – both in his choice to run for sheriff 15 years ago, and in his decision now to soon step away from the position after many years in law enforcement.

“If you love the job that you do, you will never have to work a day in your life. And you know Elizabeth, I have not worked since 1971, because I have loved my job,” Jarnagin said.

As the sheriff gets ready for a new road ahead, he’s reflecting on the one he’s traveled for several decades. His law enforcement career began in 1971.

“I was walking the beat downtown, shaking doors. In other words I was making sure that the businesses locked up the stores before they went home for the night,” he said.

After more than 30 years with the Morristown Police Department, Jarnagin was elected Hamblen County sheriff in 2006.

Despite his years of experience, he says nothing prepared him to run an over-crowded jail. It’s something he’s been vocal about throughout his tenure.

“My staff and I are in this jail, operating it day in and day out. We know what we need, we know what works, we know what doesn’t work, but the people that have the money purse seem to not be listening to us or me,” he said.

Like most, Jarnagin has navigated through highs and lows. What sticks out, he says, is helping children, the elderly, and victims, as well as closing a 13-year-old cold case – the murder of Mickey Moore.

Through it all, the sheriff says he’s been guided by his faith.

“I don’t look upon this as a contest to see how long I can stay in law enforcement. That’s not what this is about. This is about doing the work of God, and He put me here for a reason, as he puts everybody in a position for a reason,” Jarnagin said.

Sheriff Jarnagin is not seeking re-election in 2022. He said he’s looking forward to spending time with his family and that he feels like this is a good time to step away.

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