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Newton to be interim sheriff

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Nelson County’s next sheriff will need no on-the-job training.

Mike Newton, who served two terms as the county’s sheriff, will serve as interim sheriff when Sheriff Ed Mattingly’s retirement becomes official Jan. 1.

County Judge-Executive Dean Watts made the announcement in a press release Wednesday morning, two days after Mattingly let it be known that he was retiring.

“It’s important to put somebody in place who’s had some experience there and somebody who’s neutral,” he said.

He explained that he didn’t want to appoint someone who currently works for the Sheriff’s Office because that person might make changes, and then it would be hard for him to have to return to his previous position.

Watts said Newton had agreed to serve four and a half months until the May primaries, at which time he will appoint the winner.

Currently, there is only a Democratic primary for May and three have filed: Lt. Kaelen Matthews, Sgt. Ramon Pineiroa and former Bloomfield Police Chief Kenny Downs, who worked for the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office after retiring from Louisville’s police department, are all running.

“I understand there’s no Republican who’s filed yet, but there may be one down the road. I’ll deal with that at that time,” Watts said Wednesday.

Mattingly announced Monday that he was retiring at the beginning of the new year to lock in his benefits because of the uncertainty of the proposed changes in the state retirement system.

Watts said he would appoint Newton the same day or about that time.

“He was a real good sheriff,” Watts said of Newton’s prior service. “He’s a thinker. He’s not a real outgoing person, but he thinks things through before he acts.”

Watts appointed Newton interim sheriff once before, when Sheriff Jimmy Riley died in November 1998. The next year, Newton won an eight-candidate special election and then served three full terms, including Riley’s.

He retired in 2010 and was succeeded by Steve Campbell, who won that year’s election and served one term before Mattingly’s election.

Newton, 65, has a long career in law enforcement. He started in 1978 as a Bloomfield police officer, was New Haven’s chief of police and served for many years with the former Nelson County Police Department, including as its chief, until his first appointment as interim sheriff.

The department merged with the Sheriff’s Office in 2000, during his first term.

He still does car inspections for the office in the south end of the county.

“They just needed somebody to keep things going until the next sheriff was appointed and I was elected,” Newton said. “I don’t mind doing this for the short term and anything I can to help out.”

“I still have a lot of passion for the Sheriff’s Office,” he said. “I’d like to …  keep it going strong.”

Newton is also a military veteran, having served five years in the Army and 15 years in the National Guard.

He and his wife Vicki have two daughters and two grandsons.