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Not your average Joe

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Retired trooper a surprise pick for chief deputy

By BEN CARLSON

Most Joes relish the moment they no longer have to risk life and limb protecting and serving the public as police officers.

Heck, most Joes would never voluntarily risk life and limb in the first place.

But Joe Milam is certainly not your average Joe.

Sworn in last Thursday morning as the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department’s chief deputy, Milam spent the past two decades putting his life on the line with the Kentucky State Police before retiring last August.

It didn’t take him long to realize that living a sedate, risk-free life just wasn’t for him.

“Police officers are different kinds of animals,” Milam said a few hours after being sworn in. “When there’s a bad situation … a fatal situation, police officers are the ones who run toward the gunfire, not away from it.”

That appeal is what brought Milam back into police work, and what got him started in the first place.

Just hours after being sworn in, Milam agreed to discuss a variety of topics, including his former and future political aspirations and how an “uneducated” farm boy from western Anderson County rose to lofty heights with the state police and has now landed a job everyone, including he, was surprised he got.

Sewing the seed

Those who earn their living doing what they love usually have an “it” moment — that split second when passion meets ambition.

“When I was a teen, I had the occasion to meet [former state trooper and current city councilman] Larry Giles,” Milam said. “I saw him one night in full uniform and was so impressed by his professionalism that it put a seed in my mind.

“I thought about it and thought about it and took steps to see if I could become a police officer.”

First, though, he had to graduate from Anderson County High School, which he did in 1980.

That was followed by a brief stint in college — “I tried it for a semester and didn’t like it” — and subsequent jobs working at Union Underwear in Frankfort for seven years and farm work, which he continues to do to this day.

“Then I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the state police, who took an uneducated farm boy from the western end of Anderson County and gave him a chance,” Milam said.

And what a chance it was. After graduating from the state police academy, Milam served his home county as a road trooper for 13 years. From there he was promoted to a legislative detail in the state capital in Frankfort. Three years later, he was promoted again to commander of the legislative detail as a sergeant. He was later transferred back into Post 12 and served as squadron sergeant over the Anderson, Woodford, Scott and Fayette counties.

“That was my squad,” he said. “In 20 years with the state police, I worked all but four of those years in one capacity or another serving in Anderson County.”

Political aspirations now on hold

When word got out last week that Young had selected Milam to be his chief deputy, even those closest to the sheriff admit being surprised.

Almost from the moment he retired, rumors of Milam’s political aspirations were being bruited about Anderson County, including some who said he might consider a run at sheriff.

It didn’t take long, though, before it became common knowledge that instead of sheriff, Milam had set his sights on running for judge-executive.

Milam said he never intended to run for sheriff, but acknowledges that he was considering running for judge.

“That’s no secret,” he said. “When I retired I considered running for two offices, one was the sheriff’s office, the other was county judge.

“The sheriff’s office was out of question because of who holds that seat. You can’t do better than Troy as sheriff.

“People talked about me running for judge, and spoke positively about it. If this hadn’t come up, I probably would have done it. Now, I’m not. I want to be the best chief deputy I can be, and I hope to live up to everyone’s expectations.”

And with Young’s seat on next year’s ballot, Milam said he is determined to help the sheriff be re-elected.

“If Troy is contested, I’ll be there to help him through it,” he said.

Milam didn’t, however, rule out a future in politics.

“Those positions are available every four years,” he said. “Being asked to be chief deputy is an offer that doesn’t come around again.”

How it happened

After retiring, Milam said he had several options he wanted to consider but the economic downturn prevented some of his plans from materializing.

Of those options, he said he never even considered the idea of being chief deputy until Young approached him with the idea about two months ago.

Milam said he was in Young’s office talking about other things when Young posed the chief deputy question.

“He asked me if I would be interested, and that kind of floored me because it wasn’t something I’d thought about,” Milam said. “We talked about it some more, about the money and what would be expected and it just progressed from there.

“From about our second conversation on my interest was piqued. If he felt that way about me, I was very interested in doing it.

“All I know is that when he said he was ready to go, I said ‘I am, too.’ ”

Milam began working the moment he was sworn in by Circuit Court Clerk Jan Rogers, and within hours was issued his service equipment.

During his swearing in, many of his family members were on hand, lending their support.

“They are proud of me,” he said, adding that his wife, Terri, fully supported his return to police work.

“She was tickled to death,” he said. “She knew I was a little frustrated that things I had planned since I retired hadn’t materialized.”

Big shoes to fill

Despite two decades of success with the state police, Milam is quick to acknowledge that the bar for the title of chief deputy was set mighty high by BJ Crane, the very popular chief deputy who retired last year.

“Nobody was a better chief deputy than BJ,” Milam said. “He is a class act, and in a class all to himself. If someone says a year from now that I did a good job filling BJ’s shoes, I’ll consider that to be a huge compliment.”

Sheriff Troy Young said Crane’s retirement left a void in his office that was not easy to fill.

“I felt like a little kid looking out the window and finally realized that BJ wasn’t coming back,” he said. “Like BJ, Joe is a great people-person and he will be a tremendous asset for us as far as his skills and everything he has acquired over the years.”

E-mail Ben Carlson at bcarlson@theandersonnews.com.