JOHNSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Johnson County Sheriff Eddie Tester passed away unexpectedly Friday, leaving what those close to him say are big shoes to fill.
Chief Deputy Clifton Worley is the acting sheriff until a more permanent appointment is made. Worley told News Channel 11 that Tester’s work ethic was prolific.
“If you needed him, he’d be there,” Worley said. “He’d just get in his truck and drive to wherever you [were] at.”
Worley spent part of Monday gathering personal effects from Tester’s office. Tester’s patrol truck remains outside of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, which his coworkers said serves as a reminder of his character.
“I’m going to do my best every day, and I’m going to try to be there for the people just like he was,” Worley said.
Tester was serving his second term as sheriff at the time of his passing.
Tester served his community in other ways prior to being elected sheriff in 2018. He was a paramedic, dispatcher, state trooper, volunteer firefighter and firearms instructor.
Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter said that for as good of a sheriff as Tester was, he was a better friend.
“Sat right there in that chair and we’d just talk about life and county government,” Potter told News Channel 11 in his office Monday. “He’d say ‘Alright, big man, I’ll let you get to work. Holler if you need me.'”
Potter’s memories echo a quote of Tester’s featured at the top of his obituary: “If you need me, let me know.”
Worley said Tester was constantly on patrol and never hesitated to respond to any situation.
“Anytime you turned the radio on, most of the time you’d hear him,” Worley said. “If something was going on, he was there.”
Potter said Tester also left behind a legacy in his work to bring young people into first responder jobs.
“Since he’s been sheriff and EMT, he has brought other young men and women into the profession,” Potter said. “At the time, you’d call them kids that he was answering questions, bringing them into, especially the EMT part of it. Now, they’re adults and serving and have families.”
While the sheriff’s office and community continue to mourn, a new sheriff will eventually be appointed.
“The county commission will appoint that person to serve as I see it, if I’m correct, until the next election, which will be in August a year from now,” Potter said.
Potter said the winner of that August 2024 election would serve the rest of Tester’s term, bringing the county sheriff election back on cycle with other county-wide positions in 2026.
He said the Johnson County Commission will not be taking any action related to appointing a sheriff at its next meeting.
Potter does expect a large turnout in Tester’s honor at his funeral in the Johnson County High School gymnasium on Wednesday. The service begins at 1:30 p.m. Johnson County Schools and county offices will close at noon on Wednesday ahead of the service.