For the first time in his 11 years in office, Strength didn’t wear a tie to work Monday.
He called the day “bittersweet” and said he wasn’t sure what emotions would arise when he walked away from 400 Walton Way.
“I don’t know (what will happen),” Strength said. “I’ve never left before. It will be emotional.”
Strength has been a fixture at the Sheriff’s Office for more than three decades. He rose through the ranks from a road patrol deputy in the 1970s to his election as sheriff in 2000.
Although the job was stressful, knowing there were more than 200,000 people who depended on him, Strength said he has no regrets.
“These things will take a toll on you. I was dark-headed when I started this job,” he said with a laugh.
Throughout his tenure, employees and members of the community would seek his advice, Strength said. Even if it didn’t have anything to do with law enforcement, he said he tried to take time to show that he cared.
“The community has been good to me,” he said.
By early Monday, Strength had pretty much cleared out his office, which Sheriff-Elect Richard Roundtree will officially take over Tuesday. All but one box had been packed in his truck.
Although he prides himself on throwing away mostly everything that isn’t necessary, there are a few things he couldn’t part with.
Two permanent fixtures on the walls of his old office, a magazine layout featuring him and a pair of old .45-caliber Western handguns, will now hang in his home.
From Tuesday on, his schedule will be free, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to sit around, stop working and “deteriorate,” which was one of the main concerns of friends and family when he announced in March that he wouldn’t seek re-election.
Strength said he still intends to wake up at 6 a.m. every day and feels confident there are plenty of things to keep him busy at his property in Jefferson County.
Strength and his wife, Patti, recently purchased a home and more than 100 acres there, where he said life moves “at a slower pace.”
It’s a place where Strength looks forward to spending more quality time with his family, whom he said he neglected more often than he preferred in his career.
“Now I’ll be able to say I’ve had the best of both worlds,” he said.