Hayden retiring June 30; Carter to become sheriff

EMILY WILLIAMS | The Sun

McCracken County Sheriff Jon Hayden (left) announced Monday he will retire at the end of the month after 12 years in office. Capt. Matt Carter), a department veteran and the sole candidate running for sheriff, will be appointed as his successor, serving the final six months of Hayden's term.

McCracken County Sheriff Jon Hayden will retire at the end of the month after 12 years in office, a decision that launches Capt. Matt Carter’s new administration earlier than expected.

Hayden, a three-term sheriff who has been with the department since 2003, announced Monday he’d step down June 30.

“I struggled last fall with my decision not to seek a fourth term as I have struggled with the decision I have now,” Hayden wrote in a news release.

“But I know that it is time to make it.”

Leading up to Monday’s announcement, Hayden said he had discussions about resigning with McCracken Judge-Executive Bob Leeper, who assured him Carter would be appointed to fill out his final six months in office.

Carter, a 17-year department veteran, was the sole candidate running for sheriff and essentially locked in to win November’s election and succeed Hayden in January.

Leeper said he anticipates formalizing Carter’s appointment during the fiscal court’s June 25 meeting. He doesn’t believe there will be opposition from anyone in the governing body.

“There’s a lot of respect for Matt,” Leeper said.

Hayden, a law enforcement officer since 1990, praised Carter in the news release, citing their close working relationship over the years.

“I know him to be a hard working and honest man,” he said. “I have watched him many times in all sorts of situations and have always seen him do the right thing, when he thought no one was watching.”

The outgoing sheriff said he has “peace in knowing that my team and I have done the absolute best we could to serve and protect” McCracken residents.

“I also have peace in knowing that this will continue under the leadership of Matt Carter,” he wrote.

Hayden reflected on his career in the release, citing his goal from the outset to “leave our agency in a better place than when I was elected. If all of us in our everyday lives would strive to leave things better than we found them, our world would be a much better place,” he said.

Hayden thanked residents, department and law enforcement colleagues, county officials and courthouse staffers for their support over the years.

“When we all work together, that is a bad thing for those looking to victimize innocent people,” the sheriff said.

Hayden said he hasn’t ruled out a return to “some sort of public service” but now is a “time to catch my breath, and spend some much needed time with my family.”

McCracken Commissioners Scott Wathen and Jerry Beyer took time Monday to praise Hayden’s work with the sheriff’s department and his contributions to McCracken County.

“His leadership and integrity for our community has been very highly thought of by the commissioners,” Wathen said. … “Jon’s been an inspirational person for everyone who has worked with him, and he went above and beyond as sheriff.”

Even Hayden’s decision to step down only after he was assured Carter would be his successor is a “testament” to the outgoing sheriff, Wathen said.

“(Hayden) wasn’t going to leave his post until he was sure that the community was going to be taken care of,” Wathen said. “Matt Carter is going to do a fine job for us, and Sheriff Hayden wanted to make sure he was leaving the community in the right hands.”

Beyer said his history with Hayden extends back to the time Beyer was a coroner and deputy coroner and Hayden was getting started with the department. The commissioner said he watched as Hayden grew from a competent investigator to a valued departmental leader.

“Jon was one of those people that gave everything 110 percent. He didn’t know what 100 percent was, it was always 110 percent,” Beyer said.

Beyer said Hayden sought out, and was successful in, changing the sheriff’s department image after he was elected, both externally and internally.

“He increased morale, and he’s always worked for his deputies to get them as much as the county could afford, always spoke for them and stood for them,” the commissioner said. “I admire him for that.

“Our county owes a debt of gratitude to Jon Hayden that we can never repay.”

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