The first Rutherford County Sheriff was Samuel McBride, who served from 1804-1806. Historically, sheriffs who were elected in Tennessee before 1980 were allowed to serve only three 2-year terms with a maximum of six years. At the end of the third term, sheriffs could not run again until one term had expired.
Sheriff Craig Snell, who was elected in 1976, was elected again in 1978 and would have run again in 1980 for his final 2-year term. However, state law changed in 1980 which allowed sheriffs to run for four-year unlimited terms.
Since that time, Sheriff Michael Fitzhugh is the 44th Sheriff with some of the sheriff’s serving more than one term. Their names and dates of service are displayed at the Sheriff’s Office.
Early sheriff’s and their families lived at the Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office was located on West Main Street for many years but outgrew the facility.
A new jail was completed in 1987 at 940 New Salem Highway. As the county population expanded, a new 956-bed facility opened in 1998 at the same location.
The Sheriff’s Office became the first Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee to initiate the School Resource Officers program. A School Resource Officer is assigned to every county school with two SROs at each county high school. School Crossing Officers guide traffic at each county school to ensure the safety of students.
Almost 500 employees communicate needs for service, patrol the county to prevent crime, investigate personal and property crimes and drug-related crimes, secure inmates, serve warrants, maintain records and evidence, provide security for the courts and give administrative support.