Sheriff Samaniego sworn in for second term

Published 1:51 pm Monday, January 21, 2019

By Michael J. Brooks / Special to the Reporter

NORTH SHELBY – Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego was sworn in for his second term on Jan. 19 at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Indian Springs. Major Ken Burchfield served as the MC.

“Actually, I was sworn in earlier and privately since my term began on Jan. 14,” Samaniego explained. “But this is a public event and a time we swear in our deputies for another term and thank them as well. This is my family’s church and we’re thankful they gave us space today.”

After his own swearing in, Samaniego swore in a large group of assembled personnel.

Samaniego said he’s grateful to be surrounded by so much talent, and to have the full support of the Shelby County Commission in his work. He singled out former Shelby Country Sheriff Chris Curry for recognition.

“I worked for 12 years with Sheriff Curry, and he taught me so much,” Samaniego said.

The sheriff also thanked his family.

“Any law enforcement officer knows his family suffers,” he said, “and this is doubly true for the sheriff. My family endures my headaches and the scheduling problems I face, and I’m grateful for their love and support.”

Samaniego said the mission of his department is to engage and serve the community.

“We have incredible challenges today,” he said. “Our staff manages our jail that we sometimes lightheartedly refer to as a ‘500 bed daycare.’ We’re also dealing with the challenge of the mentally ill. The state has scaled back a bit and we have stepped up to offer help. We don’t simply want the mentally ill housed in our jail. And we’re working with the school boards to identify children who are affected by this problem, too, so we can help them.”

Samaniego said the day’s celebratory event was overshadowed by the death of Birmingham police Sgt. Wytasha Carter whose funeral was the same day.

“Sgt. Carter actually lived in Shelby County,” he said. “I went to his visitation last night. We’re not at full attendance today since our honor guard is taking part in his funeral in the city. We’ve had six officers killed in our country so far in January, and this is six too many.”

Samaniego graduated from the University of Alabama in 1976 and inaugurated his career with the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office as an investigator. He transferred to the city police force and worked more than 20 years in various positions, specializing in narcotics. He completed his Tuscaloosa career as Assistant Chief of Police. He began service in Shelby County in 2003 and became sheriff in 2015.

“It’s an interesting story of how we got here,” he said. “My wife worked for the FBI in Montgomery, and I worked in Tuscaloosa. We chose Shelby County as a half-way point. In fact, our home near Calera was almost exactly 65 miles from both cities! So, we commuted for several years before I began work for Shelby County.”

Shirley Samaniego retired from the FBI in 2017 but has returned to work for the office of the U.S. Attorney.

Sheriff Samaniego earned the Juris Doctorate degree from Birmingham School of Law in 1984 and said this was helpful in his career.

“I knew I wanted to be in law enforcement administration, so this was something I thought I needed,” he said. “And I rely on my legal training every day, so it’s been a good investment.”

Samaniego earned a number of professional certifications with the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Secret Service, the DEA and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. He has also been named Officer of the Year by the Alabama Fraternal Order of Police.