Clarksville TN – When Sheriff Norman Lewis died last year, Montgomery County lost a very powerful and popular public figure. Norman Lewis left a legacy that would be hard to follow. The Sheriff of Montgomery County has had a history of being a tough, “no nonsense” lawman, who was a powerful, influential, commanding, and politically connected figure.
Remember Joel Plummer?
Well, meet Sheriff John Fuson.Who?
That’s the reaction of many people, including me, when the County Commission voted 12-7 this past December, to elect Fuson as the new sheriff. He was chosen over an impressive list of other candidates including a decorated Tennessee State Trooper who was also the son of the late Sheriff; a veteran Clarksville police detective; an FBI agent; and a popular long time fellow sheriff’s deputy.
Now, I have to admit, outside of the fact he was the District 7 county commissioner, I had never heard of John Fuson. And unless you worked at the sheriff’s department, or were a fellow commissioner, or lived in the Woodlawn community, you hadn’t heard of him either. He didn’t have the visibility of the other candidates applying for the job.
I had to scramble to get to know John Fuson, and I was excited about what I learned.
This is a “rags to riches” story about a guy who came from difficult circumstances, and made it. A guy who has worked his way up from the bottom, and knew that one day he would be Sheriff. He even told his boss Norman Lewis that “one day, I’ll be sitting in your chair.”
This is the story of a man of strong christian faith. A man devoted to his wife and children. A man who won’t tolerate those who break the law. A man who has a vision and a plan to lead the Sheriff’s department into the future.
John Fuson was the seventh of eight children, born to an alcoholic father, who left shortly after he was born. Raised by his mother, they moved to Clarksville in 1985. He graduated from Northwest High School in 1989. His mother, Barbara, died in 1992. He met and married the love of his life, Jennifer Rawlings, and they have three children, 19 year old Holly, 12 year old Sarah, and 2 year old Cole.
John met Jennifer Rawlings through mutual friends in 1992. Now married twenty years, Jennifer knew that John would be whatever he set out to be.
“He’s a goal oriented person,” according to his wife, Jennifer. When he sets his mind to something, you can bet it’s going to get done.”
John was working in a factory, as a painter, when his family grew concerned about the long term health effects his job would have on him. He quit, and began farming, where he supported his family and put Jennifer through college. Once Jennifer was hired by the school system, and became the bread winner, John set out to build his career in law enforcement.
“I paid to put myself through the Police Academy, Fuson said. Criminal Justice is what I wanted to pursue.”
“All of his friends wanted him to join the Clarksville Police Department, said Jennifer, but as time went on, I realized that John had much higher aspirations. He enjoys what he does, and just wants to help people.”
Sheriff Fuson joined the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Reserves in 1997, and in 1999, Sheriff Norman Lewis hired him full-time. He started working as a court officer, and in 2000, he was put on patrol. In 2008, he was promoted to corporal, and was made a field training officer.
“I was working nights and weekends, Fuson said, but I made sure that my children saw their father. I would sleep when they were at school, and be there for them when they got home. I had some crazy hours, and I’ve definitely paid my dues.”
“We all love being with John, said Jennifer. We just want to be with him. He wants to make a difference, and he loves his family and wants to be the best example for them he can be. He’s just a good person. I know that’s what you would expect his wife to say, but it truly is the type of person John is.”
Steve Batten, who is a district chief for the Clarksville Fire Department explains how he came to know Sheriff John and why he thinks Fuson will do a great job;
“We met at Blooming Grove Baptist Church. We were in Sunday School together, stated Batten. You get to know more about a person at church. You see how God has led him to this point in life. Our families just started to do things together, and we’ve been close friends ever since. That’s been over sixteen years ago, and I couldn’t have a better friend. He would do anything for you. He once helped me round up a group of horses that had got loose. He’ll just drop what he’s doing to help you.
District 16 county commissioner Robert Nichols describes him this way;
“He’s a good honest christian man, who’s a strong citizen for Montgomery County. John Fuson will do what’s right, even when nobody’s watching. He’s very smart” according to Nichols.
District 4 commissioner Mark Riggins describes Fuson this way;
“He’s a straight up guy. He has a lot of common sense, and he’s book smart too. He won’t be pushed around. John has a plan for that department. He clearly was the best man for that job, in my opinion.”
It almost seems like Fuson is too good to be true, so can he do the job? Does Fuson have the guts to make the hard decisions, and survive the politics of the position?
“I realize it’s a political environment I live in now, but I don’t pay any attention to the politics, Fuson stated. I don’t read the papers, I don’t worry about all of that. I have a job to do, and I know how I want to do it. I’ve had this goal my entire career. This department will be the best ever.”
Tomorrow, will there be changes in his department? Will his department be transparent? What about the jail? What does he think of Mayor Carolyn Bowers? Did it bother him that some people felt that his fellow commissioners were just, “taking care of their own” when they elected him?
Part two of our special report tomorrow.