Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

March 28, 2014

Sheriff leaves post earlier than expected

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — Tom Grills’ last day as Ripley County sheriff is March 31. As a constitutionally-elected official, he had to submit a resignation letter to Gov. Mike Pence, Grills reported March 26.

The 38-year-old’s next job will be a compliance agent for a private company, overseeing employees and equipment logistics. Grills said he will remain living in Batesville.

When asked why he decided not to finish his second four-year term, the Republican replied, “There are a lot of political unknowns. The one thing that really drove me to retire was the simple fact that this company offered me an employment package I could not turn down.”

The sheriff was torn about the job change. “It was hard to leave law enforcement because I always saw myself as a ... career officer. I’ve got a lot of training and experience and knowledge.” Before serving seven years and three months at the top job, Grills spent 14 years with the Ripley County Sheriff’s Office.

When asked what he’s proud of, Grills said installing new exterior doors on the old jail and integrating them with new jail doors “was a huge accomplishment” from a safety standpoint. “There have been a lot of good things,” ranging from increased staff and training to an upgraded Web site and better cameras in police vehicles. The training budget increased from $900 to $15,000, “all done with inmate money. It didn’t cost the taxpayers a penny.”

He initiated the Nixle method of free e-mail and text message alerts, which spread to Indiana State Police, school districts and other entities. “Everybody’s coming on board with it.” The sheriff added, “I’ve been in the schools,” educating students about public safety.

Reflecting on his tenure, he maintained, “The most important thing is I came through with my campaign promises. There were things I discussed I would like to do, like the drug task force, ... but that cost a lot of money and manpower. When you don’t have the teamwork from other elected officials to work toward that common goal ... some of your pursuits don’t come to fruition.”

Grills admitted, “I was always having a rough time dealing with other elected officials. I fought for what was right. I fought against corruption. I fought against the poor use of funds.”

RCSO Chief Deputy Rob Bradley will run the office until Grills’ replacement is named, according to the East Central High School graduate, who went on to receive degrees from Vincennes and Ball State universities.

Ginger Bradford, Ripley County Republican Party chair, said, “I wasn’t really surprised” about Grills vacating the office, but she would not elaborate.

She has not scheduled a Republican caucus yet to choose a new sheriff. The appointment, after a vote by 24 precinct committeepersons from the entire county, must be made by April 24, according to a state statute.

Are there special requirements or training to be sheriff? Bradford answered, “No. Isn’t that scary? That rule needs to be changed .... I just hope if someone’s interested that they have had law enforcement training and know something about the office.”

Potential candidates should notify the party chair at 812-756-0778 as soon as possible. Paperwork must be completed at least 72 hours before the caucus.

When asked if she expected Republican primary candidates Rob Bradley, Jeff Cumberworth and Joseph Mann to apply, she said, “I’m hoping they don’t. I feel like if we were to ... appoint one, to me it seems Republicans are supporting that person and I don’t think that’s right. We don’t endorse for the primary.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.