Sheriff's Hardin County roots run deep

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By Becca Owsley

After working in the sheriff’s office for 28 years, in one year and 11 months, Hardin County Sheriff Charlie Williams will say goodbye to the badge and settle into a quiet life on a farm near where he was raised in Franklin Crossroads.


He grew up the third of five sons.

“I live within a mile of where I was born and my plans are to die within that mile, hopefully of old age,” Williams, 59, said.

In 1978, he started firefighting and was one of the charter members of Kentucky 86 Fire Department.

“I’ll still fight fires until I get so old that I can’t, and that’s creeping up on me,” he said.

Woody Will, another charter member of that fire department, has known Williams since 1978.

“He was the first person I became close friends with in this area,” Will said.

When Will coordinated fire rescue training in the 1980s and 1990s, Williams worked for him.

“He and Louis Crosier worked to build the State Farm Rescue Training program used across the Commonwealth today,” Will said. “He is the most honest and caring person I have ever had the pleasure to work with.”

Williams’ career soon geared toward law enforcement.

Starting as a deputy, Williams became sheriff in 2002.

His father was in law enforcement and Williams has a photo of him in his office framed with a report he made about finding moonshiners in 1956.

By the time Williams came to law enforcement, there were only a handful of moonshiners to deal with. He’s seen many other changes the last 28 years.

When Williams started, there were eight employees in the sheriff’s office. He would come in during the day and work the courts, haul prisoners, go home to eat supper and then go back out to serve warrants.

Now there are 46 in the office. As the county’s population grew, so did the staff.

Williams remembers when he first started he could walk prisoners to district court and there might have been 30 or 40 people in jail. Now there are more than 600 in jail and the office hauls about 500 prisoners a month to court and transports about 60 to other counties.

He said the deputies are highly trained and driven to serve.

“I’ll put up my personnel to anybody’s,” he said.

Will has seen Williams’ respect for residents and his employees.

“He has the greatest respect for the public he serves, he has always had an open-door policy,  not only with the public at large, but also with his employees,” Will said. “He always looks for opportunities to commend members of his staff.”

As sheriff, Williams also sits on the Hardin County Board of Elections and works closely with Hardin County Clerk Kenny Tabb.

Williams, Tabb said, always is concerned with making sure elections are “fair and just.”

Tabb also acknowledged William’s work with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in local schools, something of which Williams is proud.

“He’s going to be missed once he’s out of office,” Tabb said.

Over his 28 years in the sheriff’s office, he’s made several memories — some tragic but most good, he said.

He’s gotten to know some of the people he’s sent to jail, and some have even come back to visit him after they were released.

But the tragic times are when he had to go to the scene of a crime or wreck where a friend was killed. He said he still can see some of them when he closes his eyes.

Williams has a few plans after retirement.

He might be able pay more attention to his farm and antique tractors. He was an active farmer until he became sheriff and now he just piddles, he said.

The work ethic needed to be sheriff is something he got from growing up on a farm. If something had to be done, you worked until it was done, he said.

“A farmer never looks for the glory because he ain’t going to get it,” Williams said, adding the same is true of being sheriff.

Williams restores antique tractors, mostly Internationals. He usually drives one in the Cecilia Day Parade with his family. He has a few he’s looking forward to working on when he has more time.

His main retirement goal is to do nothing for a while. He has no political aspirations. He wants to spend more time with his family and relax.

Williams collects toy tractors and said for the first month he might hang out in his garage and watch “Band of Brothers” while surrounded by them.

He has enjoyed the everyday business of the sheriff’s office.

The politics he’s had to become involved with every four years isn’t his favorite part of the job. Both parties have been good to him, he said, but it’s hard on his family when the rhetoric from the opposing candidate starts.

“All that stuff just kind of wears on you after a while and I won’t miss that part,” he said.

What he will miss is coming to work and seeing all the people.

“That’s my life in a nutshell,” he said. “It’s been fun.”

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.

Getting to know Charlie Williams

  • Family: Wife of 35 years, Jeanette; daughter, Sarah Bunnell and her husband, Adam; and a granddaughter, Adelynn, or “Papaw’s Peanut,” as he calls her.
  • Movies: These days it’s anything with princesses in it because of his granddaughter. He also likes Tom Hanks films, especially “Saving Private Ryan.”
  • TV: History Channel, Discovery Channel and “Duck Dynasty”
  • Hobbies: Restoring tractors, especially Internationals
  • Sports: He’s a University of Kentucky basketball fan and has been a Yankees baseball fan since 1959. His favorite player is Mickey Mantle. Williams’ first-grade teacher, Sister Antonio at St. Ambrose, once taught Yankee’s catcher Yogi Berra. He knows she’s still looking down on him, telling him he should be cheering for the Yankees.
  • Looking back: He graduated from West Hardin High School in 1971 and credits his involvement in Future Farmers of America and agriculture teachers Jo Ed Johnson and Hezzie Williams for preparing him for public life.