JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — After more than 40 years at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) and 18 years spent as sheriff, Tuesday marks Sheriff’s Ed Graybeal’s last day with the department.
The longtime sheriff announced his retirement on August 26, requesting that current Chief Deputy Leighta Laitinen serve the remainder of his term, which ends on August 31, 2022.
Graybeal’s retirement letter followed his more than eight months of medical leave due to undisclosed reasons, during which Laitinen carried out sheriff duties.
The Vietnam War veteran was promoted from a WCSO sergeant to captain in 1991, according to a bio available on the department’s website. Since 2006, Graybeal has won each election.
During his latest re-election in 2018, then-opponent Craig Ford, the operations director at the Town of Jonesborough, raised concerns regarding nepotism and favoritism within Graybeal’s administration.
A video was released shortly after Graybeal’s last election, showing his son, former WSCO Lt. Eddie Graybeal III, slapping a man in handcuffs.
Graybeal III was later reassigned to a non-law enforcement civilian position in May 2020 after he was sentenced 11 months and 29 days of probation for the 2018 incident.
He gained a new title at the sheriff’s office on August 2: maintenance custodian with a wage of $28.38 per hour.
A Johnson City Police Department lieutenant and former WCSO deputy has announced his bid for sheriff, launching his campaign before Graybeal announced his retirement.
Lt. Keith Sexton’s campaign calls for more transparency among WCSO and other county leaders.
“If a commissioner wants to know where money went, he should be able to call the sheriff and say ‘hey, can we talk about this,’” Sexton said. “If a citizen wants to talk to the sheriff, they ought to be able to set up a meeting and talk to them.
“I understand a sheriff can’t talk to everybody, but eventually as a sheriff, I’d work to get back to everybody that wanted to talk to me.”
Washington County Commissioners have 120 days to fill the position after Graybeal’s retirement, which requires a majority vote approving a candidate.