Muskogee County commissioners on Wednesday accepted the resignation of Sheriff Rob Frazier and mapped out a plan to appoint a successor to serve the remainder of his unexpired term.
Commissioners, who described Frazier's resignation as "bittersweet," will accept applications from qualified applicants until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. They plan to interview a pool of finalists during their regular meeting on Jan. 27 and announce their appointment during a special meeting Jan. 31, the effective date of Frazier's resignation.
Applicants must meet the qualifications for a sheriff as set out by state law, which requires candidates be 25 years or older, registered voters and residents of the state for at least two years. State law also requires applicants possess at least a high school education and prior service "as a duly certified peace officer, in a full-time capacity, for a period of four years."
While it is not a requirement, District 1 Commissioner Ken Doke said precautions should be taken to avoid making an appointment that would provide an unfair advantage to a candidate in the upcoming elections. He said it seems there have been times when "some of the elected officials have used these appointments to influence the outcome of an election."
"There is an opportunity where this could get political," Doke said. "I think it's important that we protect the integrity of the upcoming election — that we try and find somebody that's a neutral party, and we are not trying to set somebody up to be running as the incumbent."
District 2 Commissioner Stephen Wright said he was uncertain that stipulation could be made. The statute that grants commissioners the authority to fill a vacant county office by appointment also grants the appointee eligibility to become a candidate if all other qualifications are met.
Frazier, who tendered his resignation after accepting a job as police chief for the town of Fort Gibson, was elected sheriff in 2016 after serving with the Muskogee Police Department. Frazier previously had announced his plans to campaign for a second four-year term, but he said Wednesday he expressed confidence that he will "leave the sheriff's office in good hands with Undersheriff (Terry) Freeman, Chief Deputy (Michael) Mahan and the rest of the command staff."
"I know the employees there will continue to work hard and keep it running in a professional manner," Frazier said.
Frazier said during his three years at the helm he purchased "a new fleet of vehicles equipped with computers and global positioning systems in each unit, ballistic vests for every full-time and reserve field deputy, (and) duty-issued Glock 19 handguns." Among some of the other accomplishments during his tenure he cited employee pay raises, a drone program with FAA-certified pilots, and a secured lot for vehicle storage.
"All of this was done on a limited budget with the help of the county commissioners and with federal and state funds through multiple grants we received," Frazier said, reading from his resignation letter. "We provided better training to the employees, we've increased patrol presence by adding more deputies, and placed deputies at strategic locations to provide better and quicker coverage ... we have made Muskogee County a better and safer place to raise your families."
Frazier also touted efforts by his office to team with local, state and federal agencies, which "led to two of the largest drug investigations in Muskogee County history."
Doke said Frazier "brought a great business mind to the sheriff's office, and a lot of the changes made really made our jobs easier."
District 3 Commissioner Kenny Payne said he believes the full effect of some changes have yet to be seen.
"I appreciate more than anything else, you think out your decisions before you make them," Payne said about Frazier. "And that's proven itself out."
Wright said it was "bitter" that Frazier was leaving, but "sweet that you are bettering yourself and your family."
How to apply
Applications for sheriff will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. Jan. 22. Commissioners will interview a pool of applicants during their regular meeting on Jan. 27 during an executive session. An appointment will be made during a special meeting that will be scheduled at 8 a.m. Jan. 31, when Sheriff Rob Frazier's resignation becomes effective.
Those who wish to apply should submit a resume and cover letter before the deadline to Sheila Shamblin, secretary for the Muskogee County Board of Commissioners. Applicants may deliver those by hand to 400 W. Broadway, Suite 100. They may be mailed to P.O. Box 2307, Muskogee, OK 74402, or sent electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org.