By early Thursday afternoon, Mike Hale had cleaned almost everything out of his office. His tenure as Jefferson County's Sheriff was approaching its final hours, and he was preparing to leave the office that held countless memories.
Hale served as the county's top law enforcement officer for 20 years before falling to Mark Pettway. It ushers in a new era in Jefferson County. But it won't diminish Hale's pride in the things he accomplished: from crime reductions to technology expansions, the school resource officers he added and the budget deficits he overcame.
"The only word that I think describes how I feel is absolute contentment," he said. "I'm very pleased with the service that my deputies and I gave the citizens of Jefferson County."
But his time in public office is over now, and he says he doesn't plan to run again. Instead, he'll support the political goals of other good men and women, both Republicans and Democrats. And in the meantime, he'll focus on things more personal.
"I just want, honestly, to be a better man," he said. "I want to work on being a better husband, a better father, better pawpaw and to be better friend."
And he believes Pettway, with 25 years of law enforcement experience, will make a great successor. His role on Pettway's transition team helped him see that.
Pettway will be sworn in today at 11 a.m. For a look at what he hopes to accomplish click here.