By Tammy Moore Teague
On Monday, November 19, Kevin Nickson was sworn in as interim Sebastian County Sheriff. Sebastian County Circuit Judge Stephen Tabor officiated the ceremony.
Nickson will serve as Sheriff until January 1, 2019. Then, Sheriff-Elect Hobe Runion will take office. Previous Sheriff, Bill Hollenbeck did not seek re-election and submitted his letter of resignation stating his last day would be Sunday, November 18.
The Louisiana native move to Fort Smith in 1987. In August of 1988, he got hired on as a dispatcher for the Fort Smith Police Department. “That’s where my law enforcement career began,” stated Nickson. “Eventually I got on as a reserve deputy and got to work the streets. It got in my blood.”
In 1990, he made the move to the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Department. “I started as a detention deputy over at the old courthouse under Sheriff Gary Grimes,” he added. This is where he built a career of a lifetime, serving and protecting the citizens of Sebastian County.
He worked his way up the ranks from detective, corporal, sergeant, lead investigator and ultimately Chief of Detectives. However, he recalled his first patrol assignment beginning in 1993 fondly, reflecting on the relationships he forged in the community. “It was a challenging moment for me because a lot of people didn’t think I could make it out there because I’m African American.”
This reluctancy made him more determined. “I’ve got really good friends in South Sebastian County, folks in Hartford and Midland. That’s where I wanted to be.” Nikson added that he was respected for who he was, and what he did. They witnessed his heart and his passion to serve. “That was a good time in my life to meet those people.”
These relationships mean a great deal to Nickson as he reflects back on his early years in law enforcement. “We had to be community related police. You have to police with compassion…We got so familiar with the people that we solved crimes by CB radios. We had a night-time stop…they always had coffee for us at night. I miss those days.” He jokingly shared his CB handle, which he dubbed a badge of honor, “chocolate bear.”
As Nickson continued to climb the ranks, he felt like it was time to call it quits. However, retirement was not in the cards. After Hollenbeck announced his retirement and subsequent departure, the Sebastian County Quorum Court needed to fill the position until Sheriff-Elect Runion took office. Nickson was the just the man for the job. On January 1, “we’re gonna stand up there and switch badges,” Nickson said. At that time Nickson will become Chief Deputy and continue working under Runion.
Although Nickson is the first in his family to be in law enforcement, he certainly comes by his passion to serve others honestly. His father, J.A. Nickson, was a minister at Mission Point Missionary Baptist Church. He served the church faithfully and even went on several mission trips to Haiti. Additionally, there are those in Nickson’s family who are health care providers, serving others selflessly. His compassion and the need to serve fits. “It’s why I am back, God has just blessed,” concluded Nickson.
By Tammy Moore Teague