Fortune Retires in Jefferson County

Sheriff Ken Fortune has decided not to seek another term. Fortune plans on spending time in North Carolina taking care of his ailing parents. He has a lengthy law enforcement career that includes 14 years with the Highway Patrol and the last 20 as sheriff. Now, he's decided to turn in his badge.

Ken Fortune has gained national attention in his 20 years as sheriff of Jefferson County. In September of 1993, a British tourist was fatally shot at a rest stop on I-10. Fortune was under pressure to solve the crime.

"It drew not only local but international media coverage and just constant bombardment of 24 hours a day for three weeks," says Fortune.

That's one tough part of the job fortune won't soon forget. There are also the more pleasant memories he'll take with him.

"The biggest thing you miss is the people I won’t miss a lot of the headache just the people you see everyday that you will miss," Fortune adds.

The bittersweet departure has already taken a toll on those friends who've now become an extension of his family.

"That's what his life is all about being a family man who has given so many years to a county and to its citizens,” says Jean Willis, who’s worked with Fortune for 15 years.

Citizens say they'll not only miss a great sheriff, but an extraordinary friend.

"Ken is an outstanding law enforcement officer he know the law. The other thing is that he gets along with everyone black, white, purple or pink," says Jim Norton, a Jefferson County resident.

“He treats everyone right here in Jefferson county, so if he's really gonna retire, we really gonna miss him," says Barbara Frazier, a Jefferson County resident.

For now Fortune's name will continue to be on the marquis until January 2005. He'll then go back and forth to North Carolina to care for his parents.

No one has announced their plans or filed to run, but there's plenty of talk in town. That job pays $90,000 a year, so it's likely to draw candidates from Jefferson County and beyond.