By Gregory Faul
When the late F.D. Buddy East died in September 2018, Lafayette County lost its sheriff who served its residents in that roll for more than 40 years, leaving the position open for the first time in four decades.
His son, Joey East, 49, entered the race as a Democrat. He will face Independent candidate Jeff South on Tuesday.
At 20 years old, East was hired as a dispatcher for the Oxford Police Department and has been in law enforcement for more than 28 years where he has worked his way through the ranks to currently hold the position of Chief of Police. When he entered the race for sheriff, the city granted him a leave of absence to focus on his campaign.
East is a 1988 graduate of Oxford High School where he won the outstanding student award from the school of applied technology in auto mechanics and was subsequently the Rotary Student of the year. He attended North West Community College where he worked toward a criminal justice degree.
He is married to Kimberly Harwell East. Together they have four children; Megan, 25, Jack-Wyatt, 14, Maddie, 10 and Josie, 8.
East has served in various fields of law enforcement such as a narcotics agent – at times working undercover, DUI Officer, Investigator for the MS Attorney General’s Office for four years, Commander of a Multi-Jurisdictional Narcotics Task Force, Major over all criminal and internal investigations for the Oxford Police Department and Assistant Chief of Police.
East has attended the State Law Enforcement training academy and was selected to attend and graduated in 2007 from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He has spent more than five years as the Chief of the Oxford Police Department where he aimed to cultivate a department with a focus on Community Policing.
East said he is running for Lafayette County Sheriff because he cares about this community and the people who live in it.
“I have spent my entire adult life working and protecting this community, I know this community and the families that live here,” East said.
As far as pinpointing a specific problem Lafayette county is faced with, East mentioned it is hard to narrow it down to only one thing.
“As Lafayette county and the city grows in population soon to be over 55,000 residents living here, so will crime if we are not prepared. We need strong leadership that will prepare us for the future, not for today.” East said.
East said if elected Lafayette County Sheriff, he will put God first and will always be honest and fair to everyone.
Since 1993 Jeffrey South has been a small business owner and worked in law enforcement for 20 years. He worked his way up in ranks from a reserve officer to the chief of police.
South, 51, is engaged with two daughters and six grandchildren.
A 1999 graduate of the Shelby County Law Enforcement Academy, he has been a member of the gang task force and is a state-certified instructor.
South notes that while he is not a lifelong resident of Lafayette County, he has a vested interest in the county. Though he grew up in Arlington, Tennessee he has been a Lafayette County resident for more than five 5 years.
South said he is running for sheriff because he feels that much-needed changes have yet to be implemented in the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department.
“I think the residents are ready for something new and exciting and I can and will make these changes if elected,” South said.
South notes that one of the biggest issues the department faces is the lack of updated equipment for the deputies to effectively and efficiently do their jobs, as well as the lack of training deputies receive.
“The world is a constantly changing place and our officers need to be trained to handle these situations,” he said. “There are steps that can be taken to apply for grants for the needed equipment. We could implement training to have in house state-certified training officer coordinator which would elevate the expense of sending deputies for any outside training.”
South said if elected Lafayette County Sheriff, he promises to not bring politics or the “good ole boy” system into the department.