When word broke Monday that the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office is seeking to be featured in a reality TV series, other Oklahoma sheriffs surely took notice.
Deep down in the biggest, oldest and goodest of good ol’ boy stomachs, tinges of jealousy must have sparked, if only for a split second.
And why not?
With the Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbiel reporting that the proposed show would focus on Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado’s cold-case unit, you don’t have to be the elected head of a county’s law enforcement agency to recognize the numerous other televisable opportunities existing in the Sooner State.
So here are five alternate Oklahoma sheriff options for reality TV production company Lucky 8 to consider should they seek juicier subjects than Regalado, a man whose campaign was cleared of financial wrongdoing by a multi-county grand jury in July.
Oklahoma County’s famous Whetsel’s Pretzels
About 90 minutes and $4 down the turnpike from Vic Regalado resides Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel, a boots-and-slacks man under investigation for apparent mismanagement of his office and of the Oklahoma County Jail.
Despite that, Whetsel won re-election for his sixth term in office this month, largely owing to even Republican opposition to his GOP opponent, Mike Christian. NonDoc has spoken to several people who voted for Whetsel simply to avoid voting for Christian. Instead, they hope Whetsel will be removed from office owing to the findings of a damning state audit.
For a reality TV series, that sort of Board of County Commissioner drama might be a bit stodgy, but producers should consider that one commissioner just had knee replacement, another has had hair replacement and the third is black, which might help sell the series to east-coast liberals.
Bonus appeal: Marketing for a Sheriff John Whetsel reality show would be a no-brainer, as producers could launch a delicious snack line called Whetsel’s Pretzels featuring Bavarian baked goods in the shapes of handguns, handcuffs and deteriorating prison cells.
Loving meth in Love County
Had reality TV producers moved a little faster, they could have caught the tail end of Love County Sheriff Joe Russell’s career, which came to a disreputable halt in October when he resigned while facing felony charges for allegedly harboring his son’s methamphetamine stash and fugitive girlfriend.
Bonus appeal: Newly sworn-in Love County Sheriff Marty Grisham didn’t even draw an opponent during April filing, meaning he didn’t have to campaign for or win a single vote to take over after the Russell regime. Talk about a mandate from the people to, uhh, do stuff.
Romping with ‘Uncle Milton’ in Carter County
Similarly, 2016 would have been a great year for reality TV in Carter County, where former Sheriff Milton Anthony pleaded guilty this month to bribery. He hired a subordinate’s husband in exchange for sex with her.
The woman, identified by NewsOK, said she slept with “Uncle Milton” about 10 times before changing her mind and reporting him.
Anthony, more than 40 years the woman’s senior, was suspended while awaiting trial. He initially ran for re-election during the turmoil, but he ultimately dropped out.
He received a two-year deferred sentence for his crime.
Bonus appeal: Carter County is home to the town of Ardmore and Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore) who made national news after a NonDoc interview in June when he was unsure whether the First Amendment should protect Islam as a religion. Producers could stage an entire episode around new Sheriff Chris Bryant awkwardly taking Ownbey to the local mosque for lunch with real-life Muslims.
Wagoner County shakedown
Disgraced former Wagoner County Sheriff Bob Colbert is awaiting trial on a bribery charge related to a hot-button political topic: civil asset forfeiture.
Colbert and a deputy were suspended and accused of agreeing to free a suspect if he relinquished his right to $10,000. The deputy has pleaded to a suspended sentence in exchange for testimony against Colbert.
Wagoner County has since elected a new sheriff.
Bonus appeal: Civil asset forfeiture is a controversial law enforcement practice in which officials seize money and/or property from people who have not been convicted of a crime. They typically do so by saying the seized assets appear to be related to drug crimes, but instances of abuse are popping up across the nation. As such, civil asset forfeiture reform has broad, bipartisan support from groups like the Cato Institute and the ACLU, so any reality series focusing on a sheriff who likes to shake down suspects would likely draw a diverse viewership of policy wonks.
Sheriff B.J. Hedgecock of Push’ County
While other sheriffs listed here have found themselves booted from office or under investigation, reality TV producers need only venture down the Indian Nation Turnpike toward Antlers, Oklahoma, to find a man with the sort of name Americans can grow to love.
B.J. Hedgecock recently won election to become Pushmataha County sheriff, and he’s fired up to restore order and trust in his swath of Little Dixie.
A former drug task-force agent, Hedgecock won 62 percent of the general election vote.
Controversial sheriff Terry Duncan resigned abruptly after getting only 12.7 percent of the Democratic primary vote in June.
Duncan had been the subject of a litany of allegations, and in 2014 he and his County Commissioner brother, Jerry, were investigated by the OSBI for purchasing irregularities, one of which involved receipts for a supposed Honda motor and diesel pump that reportedly shrouded the sale of four tires that ended up on Jerry Duncan’s personal vehicle.
“I didn’t get no receipt for the tires,” Jerry Duncan said, according to NewsOK. “I didn’t know I was required to keep a receipt … It ain’t like I ain’t got the pump and motor.”
Bonus appeal: B.J. Hedgecock will become Push’ County sheriff as a rural Democrat in a dark-red state. He also had to fend off some serious negative campaign rumors in the process. From his campaign’s Facebook page days before the election:
It was brought to my attention tonight there is a Facebook page about me and my integrity. To answer the question; yes when I was in college I did get a citation for littering along with 150 other people. I contested mine and represented myself and it was dismissed.