Frank Kirby is ending his career with the Troup County Sheriff’s Department after more than 36 years.
“I have been at the sheriff’s department when the sheriff has lost (the election) before, and it’s always a hard time,” Kirby said. “I was in a position this time when I could do something about it.”
Kirby was at the sheriff’s office when former Sheriff Gene Jones lost to Turner and called it “a terrible thing to go through.”
Kirby, the county’s chief deputy, already had planned to retire at the end of the year, but told outgoing Sheriff Donny Turner he was retiring effective Sept. 7. He’s facing major back surgery and will be able to have the operation in October instead of waiting.
Not only has Kirby had a long career in law enforcement, his father was a LaGrange police officer for 40 years.
“When I started, the only weapons we had were a flashlight and a gun,” he said. “The technology we have now is unbelievable. The department is modern, up to date and well-equipped.”
But the job is getting harder, Kirby says.
“It seems to be getting harder to enforce the law,” he said. Parents are spending less time with their children. New laws are allowing for more lenient sentences. Salaries at the county remain low, making it hard to hire good people.
“We have several openings right now, and we haven’t had any applicants,” Kirby said.
When Kirby started, the biggest problem was moonshine. In fact, he got a kick of helping out the cast and crew of “The Wettest County in the World,” that filmed here last year. Kirby started his career helping to blow up moonshine stills around the county.
“The movie brought back a lot of old memories,” he said.
By the late 1970s, marijuana arrived in Troup County, then more drugs.
“I’ve seen meth(amphetamine) destroy a lot of good people,” he said.
Kirby says out of his entire career, he’s proudest of running the jail, even though it was a job that didn’t bring accolades.
“On the law enforcement side, sometimes you hear something good,” he said. “No one calls up the jail and says, ‘You’re doing a good job taking care of my baby.’”
He still marvels at the ways inmates use to sneak in contraband.
“They sit around 24 hours a day and think of ways to beat us,” he said. “They are ingenious.”
The most memorable way came when the inmates used to be allowed out to play basketball – which doesn’t happen anymore due to risk of injury. Friends of the inmates would come out during the night and sling contraband – usually marijuana – over the fence – which the inmates would collect before they started a game. They finally were caught when a deputy had to go on the roof to reset the air conditioner and found some of the packaging that had missed the court.
His advice to the new sheriff: “LaGrange is a town that likes to be treated well,” he said. “It needs a good sheriff. I want this town to continue with good law enforcement. The sheriff should run the department like a business. Treat everyone fairly, do everyone the same way.”
Kirby said he planned to spend a lot of time with his family, particularly his 19-month-old grandson. He said he hopes to find a way to server the citizens of Troup County in another capacity someday.