Morgan County Sheriff Wayne Potter invited by President for acceptance speech
By Goose Lindsay
When President Donald Trump gives has acceptance speech to run for reelection for the highest office in the land later tonight, there will be a familiar face just behind the President at the White House as Morgan County Sheriff Wayne Potter has received an invitation from President Trump himself to represent law enforcement and East Tennessee at the event.
“I’m excited, words can’t explain the feelings I have right now,” Potter said. “Regardless of your politics, to have the honor to be at such a historical event is simply unbelievable.”
Potter has known about the trip for days, but was unable to share any information publicly until the day of the event.
“Late Sunday night I received a phone call from the Fraternal Order of Police and they asked me if I would be interested in coming to the South Lawn of the White House Thursday night and stand with law enforcement officers in support of President Donald Trump accepting his Republican nomination to run for President of the United States,” Potter said. “I got my formal invitation from the White House Monday and have since been working through the ‘red tape’ required to be a part of an event of this importance.”
While most people only dream of being that close to the President, Potter has been there before. In May 2019, Potter met the President as part of Police Week in Washington, DC.
“That was such a huge honor,” he said. “I got to meet (House of Representatives) Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Attorney General Bill Barr and I got to hug the President of the United States. At the time, I thought it was the pinnacle of my career. Very few sheriffs out of the 3,000 nationwide get this opportunity so I was extremely honored.”
The opportunity came about through Potter’s work with the Fraternal Order of Police.
“When I first got elected Sheriff, I was immediately blessed with local and national support from organizations that, like me, wanted to improve law enforcement and better serve the people. That kind of support for a rural county sheriff’s office is rare and I was determined to take advantage of it to benefit the people of Morgan County. One of our main partnerships has been with the Fraternal Order of Police,” he said.
Potter said those connections are paying dividends in Morgan County.
“As this relationship has continued to grow, we’ve been able to do some good things in Morgan County,” he said. “COVID has hit and that has slowed things down, but we’re waiting for it to go away so we can get back to business. In just the first 18 months I was in office, our crime stats started to improve in Morgan County and a lot of that has to do with being able to communicate and work with other law enforcement agencies.
“We did two narcotics roundups my first year and had more than 100 officers here from across East Tennessee here assisting. We put nearly 100 people in jail on those two occasions and that’s something that has never been done in Morgan County. Those type operations would not be possible without partnerships with state, local and federal agencies and other support organizations like the FOP.
“We made nearly 1,400 arrests in the first two years. Those are record numbers for Morgan County and most of those came in the first 14 months due to the restrictions put on us by COVID-19 during the last six months.
“What we’re doing here now in Morgan County is only a small part of what we will be able to do in the next few years. Having the ability to reach out to other agencies and having access to resources the tax payers of Morgan County cannot afford is a product of being part of the national law enforcement community and that shows when we get invited to the White House to represent East Tennessee and are included in a way Morgan County has never been.”
As Potter heads to the event, he wants to focus on getting as much for Morgan County as possible and leaving the politics to others, but he greatly appreciates President Trump’s unwavering support of the men and women serving in law enforcement.
“I want to stay out of the politics part of it, but I thank God that we live in such a great community that we’re not going to have what Wisconsin, Portland and Seattle are going through,” he said. “If I was in a place such as that and I was the chief law enforcement officer as I am here, I would definitely be disturbed by what some of these politicians are doing by wanting to defund the police.”
Potter, however, says instead of defunding the police, law enforcement must work to make sure only the best of the best are serving the citizens.
“Life itself is tough and granted you have bad eggs in every basket, but in law enforcement the bad eggs are less than one percent,” he said. “That leaves the 99 percent to be punished and that’s so unfair.
“If you defund it, who’s going to be there when you need the police? People seem to be missing that part of it. We do so many things that are hard to do. One minute we may be hugging a family member who just lost a loved one and the next minute we may be getting shot at.
“It’s not an easy job, but I think the thing we have to do is get rid of the bad eggs and then support the good ones and stand behind them.”
Standing behind law enforcement means standing behind President Trump tonight, and that’s something that Potter still finds hard to believe is happening.
“One part of me says I strive and work hard every day. A lot of times I only get two or three hours of sleep so the work ethic side of me says it’s not surprising,” he said. “But the other part of me says I’m the sheriff of little bitty Morgan County, Tennessee and I’m at the big dance so it’s unbelievable to have this opportunity.
“I’m extremely honored to be in Washington representing Morgan County and East Tennessee.”