Waits named president of jailers association

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By Lisa King

Shelby County Jailer Bobby Waits has been elected president of the Kentucky Jailers Association (KJA) for the third time.

That's quite an honor considering there are 74 jailers in Kentucky, said Marshall Long, executive director of the KJA.

"He's one of the better jailers in the state," Long said. "He does an excellent job and he runs a good, tight ship. He works hard and he's well-respected by other jailers."

Waits acknowledged that while heading up the association is indeed an honor, the position involves a lot of traveling back and forth to Frankfort.

"It is a big honor and it's a lot of work," he said. "Our county's very supportive, and you have to have a good staff behind you because you're dealing with jails all across the state and jail issues in Frankfort with legislation through the session."

Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger said that being president of the KJA puts Waits in a good position to do a lot of good for the county.

"That's the great thing about having Bobby as our president of the Kentucky Jailer's Association," he said. "He's taking our word from our county directly to the jailers association and he works every day with them and with the General Assembly."

Waits said that one thing that influenced him to run for the presidency for a third term is he doesn't have to travel very far to get to Frankfort, whereas some county jailers simply couldn't go back and forth as often as he does.

"One of the key things for me running was the proximity to Frankfort," he said. "Another one of my reasons for doing it more than once is because I still have a lot of my contacts, including the law makers in Frankfort and in working with them for several years and knowing them I know what the issues have been with jails over the years and what the county governments are fussing about every day about the costs of running the jails."

Rothenburger said when it comes to cutting the cost of running the jail, Waits has done an excellent job.

"We're in very good shape," he said. "Somewhere around $350,000 was the only money that it was in deficit. That does not include the capital improvement payment, which is the expansion of the jail, so we feel very fortunate that we get by with about $300,000 or $400,000 a year that we actually have to put in that, when you look at the expenditures versus the revenue. In some counties, it's tenfold on that."

He added that Waits works hard to keep expenses down at the jail so that county doesn't have to take up the slack.

"Each and every year, Bobby comes up with a suggestion or a vision where it (the jail) supports itself. That's his ultimate goal, to get it to support itself."

Waits has been the only jailer at the detention center's "new" facility, completed in 1997, just six months after he was elected. Before that, inmates had been housed at the old jail on Washington Street since 1892. The current 312-bed facility boasts the most up-to-date technology in booking, fingerprinting, camera systems and control room, manned by staff of 37 employees.

"We have GED programs, anger management classes and parenting courses, just to name a few," Waits said. "I'm proud of our staff, they are all good people," he said.