Interim Graves County Sheriff Jon Hayden is the county Democratic Party’s nominee for sheriff on the November ballot.
Hayden announced his candidacy at noon Monday at Kess Creek Park in front of a crowd of roughly 200 people, including eight other Kentucky sheriffs.
“I know from many years of experience the commitment that it takes to put yourself out there in such a public way,” he said. “I also know that being sheriff is not just a job. It is a life. It consumes most of your time and occupies all aspects of your mind and thoughts, or at least it has always been that way with me.”
The deadline for the county political parties to submit their nominees was Tuesday. That was also the deadline for any independent candidates to file to be on the ballot. The Graves County Republican Party chose Jason Clark as its candidate in March. The person elected will serve out the remainder of the late Sheriff Dewayne Redmon’s term, roughly three years. Judge-Executive Jesse Perry selected Hayden to serve as interim sheriff in February, following Redmon’s death.
Hayden, 52, is a native of Fancy Farm and a graduate of Fancy Farm High School. He and his wife, Melissa, moved back to his family’s farm in September after living in McCracken County during his years as sheriff there.
Hayden has 30 consecutive years’ experience in law enforcement. His career began with the Princeton Police Department in 1990. He then served in a drug enforcement role within the Paducah Police Department before joining the McCracken County Sheriff’s Department in 1993. He was elected sheriff in 2006 and then was unopposed in two other elections for sheriff. He retired as McCracken County sheriff in July but went back to work in November, working for the McCracken sheriff’s department in the newly designed role as an agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and working in Kentucky counties west of Bowling Green.
“My close friend and former sheriff lost his life due to an illness that left the agency in turmoil,” Hayden said during his remarks Monday. “I felt an obligation to step up and do that absolute best I could to stabilize the agency, to do my best to bring some healing to the department and the community. Together, with the help of many people, we have begun to make changes, building a foundation to take the Graves County Sheriff’s Office to the next level of professionalism.”
Hayden said the best indicator of where he wants to lead the department is where the department is already headed.
“I have always believed that a good predictor of future performance should be judged on one’s past actions, work history and job performance,” he said.
He said the McCracken sheriff’s office is roughly the fifth biggest in the state. As sheriff, he said he was responsible for the collection and distribution of $396 million and tax revenue and oversaw an operating budget totaling about $36 million annually.
As interim sheriff, he said one of the first things he did was stationing deputies at or near county schools at their busiest times. The sheriff’s office also redirected its focus on some recent high-profile missing person cases, he said, including requesting additional resources through bringing in a task force to work on the case.
“Drug and theft crimes seem to be on everyone’s minds here in our Mayfield and Graves County communities,” Hayden said. “We have and will continue to prioritize these investigations and will aggressively pursue those that choose to victimize our families, friends and neighbors.”
He said he has also worked, along with others, to build a foundation of fundamental values within the office to include a solid work ethic, transparency, professionalism, tenacity in solving crime, compassion and honesty.
Hayden also said he is a law and order type of person but also believes in using common sense in all aspects of law enforcement. He said he is conservative in his beliefs and supports the president of the United States, as he has supported all past presidents.
“As sheriff, it doesn’t matter to what political party you belong as you serve all citizens equally, no matter their race, ethnic origin, religion, education or just because someone may be different in some way,” he said.
McCracken County Sheriff Matt Carter said he has known Hayden for about 25 years, serving with him as a fellow deputy, under him as sheriff and then with Hayden as a DEA agent assigned under the department with Carter serving as sheriff.
“It’s easy to put on a front and say all the right things, but what really sets a person apart and shows their character is what a person does when no one is watching,” Carter said, saying that he knows Hayden to have a tireless work ethic and absolute loyalty to the citizens he serves.
Carter said, “I don’t think you could find a better candidate to fill the role.”