A deputy commissioner of the state Department of Corrections, Rodney Ballard, has been nominated to be Fayette County's jail director.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray introduced Ballard at a news conference Tuesday morning. Ballard has 30 years of experience in law enforcement and corrections, including oversight of probation, parole and inspection of county jails statewide.
Ballard, whose job title would be director of community corrections, said, "I will be boots-on-the-ground March 15."
His appointment must be approved by the Urban County Council.
Ballard told Gray he would come up with "a strategic map of where we're going with the division of community corrections in the next 30 to 45 days." It will lay out a plan for how to address critical issues such as budget, officer safety and protecting the constitutional rights of inmates and staff.
Asked how his experience at the state level would help him in his new job, Ballard said he had a well-rounded career that included law enforcement and corrections.
He began his career as a police officer in Northern Kentucky, then joined Kentucky State Police. In 1999, Ballard went to the Kenton County Detention Center, where he worked nine years. "That's where I learned the industry," he said. "I carried keys. I stood posts. I did budgets."
In 2008, he was appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear as deputy commissioner of the Division of Corrections, where he dealt with all 120 county judge-executives. "All of them are hurting. Their budgets are hurting. They are looking to save money with their correctional facilities," Ballard said.
If confirmed, he would replace interim director Ray Sabbatine, who was hired after former corrections chief Ron Bishop announced his retirement last year. Bishop had been in the job since 2004.
Sabbatine, who had retired in 2001, was a former longtime director of the Fayette County Detention Center and a national authority on inmate risk assessment. Sabbatine said he plans to return to corrections consulting.
Bishop's retirement came about a month after two reports showed widespread problems with officer morale and leadership.
Peggy Henson said after the news conference that since she became a council member in 2008, "I saw a red flag at the jail, from all the employee turnover, the overtime. We've had lawsuits." Henson said Ballard's job would be to come up with strategies for better management of the facility.
She called Ballard "a breath of fresh air."