‘Firm but fair”: Lauderdale Co. Sheriff Rick Singleton looks back on 50 year career

Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton retires
Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 9:00 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - It’s getting harder to find people who have chosen a career and stayed in that career for any length of time. Try 50 years.

That is the career Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton is saying goodbye to today as he heads into retirement.

WAFF 48′s Margo Gray sat down with him for a candid conversation about his highs, lows and how his final year in office took an unexpected wild turn.

“You’ve heard leaders are born or leaders are made, I really think it’s a combination of both. I think you’ve got to have those initial instincts, and attributes to be a leader. With experience, you fine tune those attributes. To me, the biggest thing about being a leader is taking care of your people, they take care of you,” Singleton said.

Patrol man, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Deputy Chief, Florence Police Chief, Deputy, Corrections Deputy and now Sheriff. Singleton has earned and worn many hats over the years. Out of his 50 year tenure he says his first year was his toughest.

“The first year was tough for me. Six weeks out of the academy I was involved in a deadly force shooting. Back then, we don’t deal with it the way we do today. There’s no mandatory time off, no mandatory counseling, and just left to cope with it anyway I could so I sort of became a workaholic, that’s just how I dealt with it,” he said.

Singleton dipped his toe into politics in 2011 running for Mayor of Florence but lost that fight. Although he lost that fight, he won plenty in his younger days in the wrestling ring. By day he was an officer, by night he was a pro-wrestler named Dr. Death.

There are highs and lows in law enforcement and one low certainly came last April for Singleton.

“Casey and Vicky were missing,” he said. “I missed a lot of sleep, I sure did. It was a stressful week and a half probably one of the most stressful periods of my career. You know, but I knew we had to get him off the road, off the street before he hurt somebody.”

We know how the story ends, unfortunately. The escape of Casey White made headlines across the country, it has also made headlines in the T.V. movie industry. When it comes to the Tubi movie Singleton says there is one thing factually true.

“It says its based on a true story and that’s about where it ends, that’s about the only factual thing in it I think,” he said.

When it comes to the real-life story of Vicky White, as her boss Singleton says he was disappointed by her actions.

“The word you used then and I don’t know if it’s relevant now is that you were just disappointed,” he said. “Yeah, you know, I’ve worked with Vicky for almost eight years. To think that she would pull a stunt like that like that is really disappointing.”

Although it was a low for Singleton, he never let the positives slip away from his time in law enforcement.

“Interaction with the people in the community, interacting with the members of the chamber of commerce, and with citizens, going to Walmart grocery shopping and running into people,” he said.

In and out the ring Singleton has always had someone in his corner, his “unsung heroes.”

“One of the most important thing in this profession is family,” he said. “You know, they’re the real unsung heroes.”

Even though Singleton is leaving the office, he still has one thing he would like to see happen and that is for Lauderdale County to receive a new jail. According to Singleton, he has been asking for the new jail for six years and is still waiting for the county commission to approve. At a peak 408 inmates have been inside the jail that is built to fit 256 inmates.

As for incoming Sheriff Joe Hamilton, Singleton has already given his blessing and plenty advice as he takes the reins.