From terminated to elevated.
That's the short description of the turn of events experienced by David Knight, elected Tuesday night as McCracken County's next jailer.
The Republican candidate outpaced Democratic challenger Dan Sims, the county's longtime coroner, 13,453 votes (56.1 percent) to 9,559 (39.8 percent). Independent Joshua Reynolds Graham received 989 votes (4.1 percent).
Knight, the jail's internal affairs investigator, was fired March 8 by current jailer Tonya Ray, a decision she later reversed at the request of the county's fiscal court, which found the move was without cause. Almost eight months later, he was elected to replace Ray.
"It's been a journey, to say the least," Knight said Tuesday night after the vote totals were finalized.
"I was terminated back in early March. Of course, I believe that was politically motivated. Things are better as far as working relationships now, comparatively. I do believe this transition is going to be smooth."
Knight said he and Ray agreed that transition will begin soon.
"I talked to her (Tuesday), and if I won, she is going to allow me to start putting things in order and structuring things as I want them within the next week or two," he said.
"She's not going to step down, but she is going to allow me to start getting things the way I want, and work on employee morale, structuring them the way I think they should be. Of course, I come from a military background, and the Marines have the success they do for a reason. That's what I largely want to model things off of."
The jail, 400 S. Seventh St., has 59 employees and houses an average of 515-530 inmates daily. The budget for the coming year is anticipated to be about $6.45 million.
Knight, whose jailer bid was his first run for public office, said he heard from voters who were concerned about controversies arising in recent months from the jail. Specifically, he said, they wanted employee turnover addressed.
"We're going to do some of that through morale and hopefully get the wages back up to where they're competitive, at least with the prisons," he said.
Sims said he sent a congratulatory text to Knight before the vote was official Tuesday, expressing thanks that they both "ran a clean campaign," and "wishing him well."
"I think we both put forth a great effort and did everything we needed to do," Sims said. His coroner duties will end Dec. 31 after 23 years in the office. He doesn't regret running for jailer. "I wouldn't change a thing," Sims said.
Knight was also thankful for Sims.
"I'm very grateful to him," the jailer-elect said. "We have run a very clean race. … Me and him have been friends for a very long time, and I couldn't be more thankful for how this race has been run. I'm very respectful of Mr. Sims and his position within the community. He's served the community in one way or another for 30-odd years."
Knight said he's anxious to begin reshaping jail operations.
"We worked very, very hard to achieve this," he said. "We're ready to get to work for the people and get the jail lined out to where it should be."