Jonathan ‘Joe’ Benison inaugurated as Sheriff of Greene County

District Judge Lillie Jones-Osborne administers the oath of office to Sheriff Jonathan Benison at the William McKinley Branch Courthouse in Eutaw. Standing with Benison are his father Elijah Bryant and his daughter Schnarre Benison. Despite the inclement weather, there was a crowd present at the event.

By: John Zippert,

Jonathan “Joe” Benison was formally inaugurated and sworn-in as the new Sheriff of Greene County at a 5:00 PM ceremony Sunday, January 9, 2011 at the William M. Branch Courthouse in Eutaw, Alabama.
Benison, who won the Democratic primary in June 2010 and was unopposed in the November elections, was asked by Governor Riley on December 22 to fill the vacancy created by the departure of Sheriff George Cook.
Benison took his position about a month before the January official starting date of his elected term. He becomes the fourth Greene County Sheriff to serve in 2010, after the untimely death of Ison Thomas, the interim service of Coroner Ronald Kent Smith, and the appointment of George Cook by Gov. Bob Riley.
The program included greetings from Nick Underwood, Chair of the Greene County Commission, and Raymond Steele, Mayor of Eutaw, as well as a welcome from Dr. Carol Zippert, local and state leader of the Alabama New South Coalition. Lester Brown, School Board member from District 1, recognized other public officials at the program.
Former Sheriff George Hall was guest speaker who replaced Rev. Thomas Gilmore, who was unable to travel to Greene County due to the inclement weather conditions. Hall praised Benison and said, “Don’t elect a sheriff and then sit down at home waiting for him to perform.
‘ The people must help him uphold the law; don’t leave him by himself; help him and support him in doing the job for the people of Greene County.”
The New Greene Oak Baptist Church choir and Monica Turner of Forkland provided musical selections to honor the new Sheriff,
In his comments, Benison thanked the voters of Greene County for their support in the elections. Benison said he started his law enforcement career at the age of 22, after attending Alabama State University, at the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, under Thomas Gilmore. He then spent 24 years with the Alabama State Troopers out of the Mobile District.
“After 27 years in law enforcement, I have come full circle, back to my home county to be the Sheriff. I will take one day at a time and go forward. I will not let you down. I may sway or bend but I will not fall,“ said Benison.
“This is your Sheriff’s office – not Joe Benison’s office. It belongs to you the citizens of Greene County. We have the best employees and I hope people will respect my decisions with regard to staffing the office. I would like to see the Sheriff’s office represented in every aspect of the community, including churches, schools and businesses.
“I want the public to come through my door when you need my help or just to offer your comments and suggestions. I hope to be more than the top law enforcement officer of Greene County – I want to be a public servant – to serve and protect the people of the county, said Benison.
In his remarks, Benison did not mention the controversy swirling around electronic bingo in Greene County. In the Constitutional Amendment (No. 743) the Sheriff of Greene County is given the primary role of regulating bingo of behalf of the charities and non profit organizations that will benefit from the games.
As reported in last week’s Democrat, Sheriff Benison met with Luther Strange, the newly elected Alabama Attorney General-elect, who has been authorized by the new Governor-elect, Robert Bentley, to follow-up the implementation of the work of the Governor Riley’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling. Strange warned Benison that he considered the electronic bingo machines confiscated from Greenetrack to be illegal pending final decisions on court cases.
In prior public statements, Benison said he favored the re-opening of electronic bingo at Greenetrack to allow for employment and charitable benefits to flow to Greene County residents and organizations.
The new Sheriff was presented a celebratory plaque by his family. The inaugural ceremony ended with refreshments for the participants

Newly elected Jonathan Benison is embraced by his sister Barbara Jackson as she presents him with a plaque and gift as a loving recognition and salute from family members.


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