From paper boy to Jefferson County’s first African American Sherriff, Mark Pettway

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This CBS 42 Living Local post is sponsored by Jefferson County Sheriff, Mark Pattway.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (CBS 42 Living Local) – After nearly 20 years, Jefferson County is welcoming a new sheriff. We sat down with Mark Pettway to find out who he is and what he hopes to accomplish during his tenure. 

Pettway is currently serving as Jefferson County’s first African American sheriff. Growing up as the third child in a line of six kids, he watched his mother and father set an example for his future. Being a first is part of Pettway’s family legacy. 

“My mother was one of the first to integrate the Jefferson County school teachers in this system, right here in Jefferson County. And my father was one of the first black foremen at Hays International Aircraft,” said Pettway.  

Pettway was raised to work hard and help people. From age 8-to-16 years old, he diligently worked a paper route in his neighborhood located not far from Birmingham’s Legion Field Stadium.

“On Sunday mornings we were up early, about 4:00 a.m., delivering newspapers. And after we would finish delivering newspapers, we would go to Sunday school. Going to church was a very big part of my family. We did not miss,” Pettway said. 

Pettway said, even as a young boy, he always thought of himself as a leader in his community. 

“A lot of the elderly people would reach out to me to help them take out their garbage, which I did. Also, there were a couple of elderly women that would ask me to write letters for them,” said Pettway. 

  

After graduating from Ensley High School, Pettway attended Jefferson State Community College, UAB, and ended up graduating from Faulkner University in Montgomery. 

He graduated with a degree in business management and worked in banking before moving to Birmingham in 1991 where he became a corrections officer in the city jail. Pettway joined the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office in 1999.

“I started advancing in the field of law-enforcement. I started liking law-enforcement. It really fits me just like a glove. And from there I became part of the community. I enjoyed community policing,” said Pettway. 

His career even put him back on his bicycle when he served as a bicycle patrol officer in the city of Fairfield. 

“I touched the community. The kids there loved me. It was like being a Power Ranger,” Pettway said. 

Pettway and his wife Vanessa have been married for 26-years and have two adult daughters who are both teachers. 

“My oldest daughter was born on our second anniversary, so we celebrate two events in one day. She thinks she’s getting cheated, but I think we’re the ones getting cheated. We say, if it weren’t for us getting married you wouldn’t be here,” laughed Pettway. 

It wasn’t until his 30s that Pettway started seriously looking into a public service leadership position. When he became a deputy sheriff, Pettway decided he could make a difference.


“I looked around, and I noticed, ‘hey we can do better,'” said Pettway. 

Pettway says his number one mission as Sheriff is to ensure public safety by addressing the core issues of crime, and to earn the citizens’ trust. 

“I’m a person of faith. When I go to work, there are prayers that I pray. There are prayers that other people pray for me. I make sure I am covered with prayer. This is a dangerous line of work, but at the same time, I believe that I’m covered. So while I’m out there God is protecting me while I protect the people,” said Pettway. 

To learn more about Sheriff Pettway’s mission, visit jeffcosheriffal.com and click on the community-outreach tab. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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