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Bobby Waits says his friends mean a lot to him, so when they awarded him Jailer of the Year, he was very pleased.
"It's quite on honor to be chosen out of a hundred and twenty-three people who are all friends and peers," he said.
Waits isn't so much a surprise winner. He has been one of the top three nominees for the past five years for this 13-year-old award.
Campbell County Jailer Greg Buckler, who received the award last year, echoed Waits' sentiments about what an honor it is to be recognized by the other jailers.
"It's very humbling to receive the top award by your peers," he said. "Bobby was a finalist last year, too, and that tells you how much people believe in him and in his leadership."
Waits also was named president of the Kentucky Jailers Association for the third year in a row, a fact that Buckler said proves that he is an outstanding individual who has been a great asset to Shelby County.
"Through his leadership as president, we have been able to progress in these tough economic times," he said. "His rapport with state legislators in Frankfort and his tireless efforts working with the Department of Corrections to maintain our rates from the state have really made a difference."
Mike Simpson, Oldham County jailer, who was also one of the presenters of Waits' award, agreed.
"I have been vice president [of Ky. Jailer's Association] under him for the past three years, and we have been friends for 20 years, so we go way back," he said. "He's a very good friend and very deserving of this award, and like I said at the award ceremony, he's very deserving of the award and it's long overdue."
Simpson said he knew Waits when Waits delivered milk for his family business and even introduced him to his wife, Debbie.
"All I can say is he's a very upstanding fellow, and an outstanding leader, not only for Shelby County, but also for jailers statewide," he said. "He puts in long hours, going to meetings and Frankfort and working hard to achieve things that benefit everyone."
One of Waits' initiatives that his fellow jailers approved is the establishment this year of the Deputy Jailer of the Year Award.
"He helped set the guidelines for that, and we are all very pleased with it," Buckler said.
Tim Wilson, deputy jailer in Warren County, was the recipient of that award, an honor that Waits said he really deserves.
"He saved the life of an inmate when he saved him from choking and got him breathing again," Waits said. "It's been my goal for the past five years to get this award going because our staff works very hard to keep everyone safe, and they are at it twenty-four-seven, even when everybody else is asleep.
"People always talk about the bad things that happen in jails, but never about the good things. So this award is a way to recognize that, and if my staff won such an award, I couldn't be prouder than if I won it myself."
Wilson received his award at the same ceremony as Waits, which was held June 17 at the Convention Center in Covington.
Captain June Craig of the Shelby County Detention Center said the entire staff is very proud of Waits, both for winning Jailer of the Year and for being named president of the jailer's association again.
"He's just wonderful," she said. "We couldn't have chosen anybody better, because he fights for the rights of our county, and what's even better, we all enjoy our jobs here, because we couldn't have a better boss."