Bill could mean raise for County Sheriff

Published 7:22 pm Tuesday, March 18, 2014

More than an elected position is on the line in the Dallas County Sheriff’s Race.

Pending a bill’s passage in the Alabama Legislature, the winner of the 2014 Dallas County sheriff’s race will earn $15,000 more than his predecessor.

Harris Huffman currently holds the position and is running for re-election as a Democrat. Local pastor Lee Green is also running for the position as a Democrat. Green also works for the Department of Youth Services.

If passed, the Dallas County sheriff’s pay rate would increase to $80,000, from $65,000 currently. The raise would take effect immediately after Huffman’s current term ends and be paid for through the county’s general fund, according to the bill.

Probate Judge Kim Ballard and the Dallas County Commission expressed support for the raise and forwarded the proposal to State Rep. Darrio Melton, D-Selma.

“It was a matter of studying the average pay of surrounding sheriffs, how much they get paid and some of the inequities that were involved,” Ballard said. “The sheriff of Dallas County covers a huge amount of square miles. Some of the surrounding counties have sheriffs that are paid a greater amount and have less population and cover less area.”

Many local, county decisions, such as the pay raise, must come through the Legislature in the form of a local bill. If one member of the legislature disagrees with the local bill, it will become a statewide referendum. Melton said he isn’t concerned about legislators disagreeing with the content of the bill, but rather the amount of days remaining in the session. He said six days remain to introduce the bill.

“Usually there are no issues with local bills, but one legislator can kill a bill,” Melton said. “Rarely does that happen, where the bill will go to a statewide referendum. Of course, time is of the essence.”

Melton added that he doesn’t have a personal opinion on the matter.

“I work for Dallas County and the county commission is the body that represents the county,” he said.

Huffman echoed Ballard’s sentiments and said he supports the increase regardless of election results.

“Surrounding sheriffs that have smaller departments, with smaller jails, smaller budgets and less population are making between $10,000 to $20,000 more than what Dallas County gets,” he said. “The raise would put us right there with other counties in terms of pay rate.”