LUCEDALE, MS (WLOX) - Monday began with a prayer for the Welford family. With her hands tightly clutching the family bible, and surrounded by her daughters, Debbie Welford took the oath of office.
Everyone in the room thought choosing Garry Welford's widow as the new sheriff was the proper choice, including county supervisor Kelly Wright.
"We wanted to not disrupt it any more than possible, so we decided to put her in place," Wright said. "She knew what his plan was and will just kind of hold it in an steady line until the public can elect who they want to elect."
If ever an event was bittersweet, this one certainly was. The sting of Garry Welford's death is still felt by so many. But the crowd was also joyful because they feel Debbie Welford will carry on her late husband's legacy.
Circuit Court Judge Dale Harkey administered the oath of office before a large crowd of family and friends.
"I think it's a sad but fitting occasion for the citizens of George County," Harkey said. "You know there's an old saying that behind every good man there's a good woman, and I believe George County will be served appropriately and fittingly by Mrs. Welford as sheriff."
"Gary had high aspirations for this county and I have been entrusted with this duty to carry on," Debbie Welford said. "I'm truly grateful to the Board of Supervisors and the citizens of this county."
But the memories of Garry Welford also played a large role in Monday's ceremony, especially for Judge Harkey.
"Gary was a fine sheriff, always doing what he thought was right, always doing his best and getting along with other elected officials. And he was just a joy to be around," Welford said.
In accepting the job of interim sheriff, Debbie Welford agreed not to run for the office in November's special election. Whoever wins will serve the rest of Garry Welford's unexpired term, which ends in November 2011.