CCDC head named Jail Administrator of the Year

Cherokee County Detention Center Jail Administrator T.J. Girdner was named Jail Administrator of the Year by the Oklahoma Sheriffs' Association.

One of Cherokee County's own has been named Jail Administrator of the Year by the Oklahoma Sheriffs' Association.

Sheriff Jason Chennault, Northeast Region board member of the OSA, nominated Cherokee County Detention Center Jail Administrator T.J. Girdner this year for the award.

"The Sheriffs' association has an awards committee and they vote on all of the awards. It's made up of board members of the sheriffs' association, four sheriffs, and then sheriff's office staff members," said Chennault.

Girdner didn't like to take credit for his work and instead pushed the focus onto his staff and others.

"You're only as good as those around you. It's an achievement I can look upon as the facility's achievement," said Girdner. "I may be accepting the award and may be getting it, but I couldn't have got it without the people surrounding me."

Girdner used to work mental health services in Muskogee with juveniles before he began working at CCDC to get closer to home.

"My cousin worked at the facility, and he recruited me to come over and I started as a detention officer," he said. "I worked transport for about a year, then I became assistant administrator and I did that for a couple of years."

Loyd Bickel was the facility's first administrator, and he retired in 2014, making Girdner named interim administrator.

"I submitted my application along with everybody else and was given the job," said Girdner. "I've got some of those staff members who worked on shift with me whenever I first started."

Chennault spoke highly of Girdner when he was discussing the award, and said he's the person people look to when needing help administratively.

"T.J. is the person, across the state - he's the guy people go to when they need help for something because of his knowledge," said Chennault. "The sheriffs' association puts on these trainings a couple of times a year for jail administrators and they're constantly asking him to be a part of so he can spread his knowledge."

A typical day for the jail administrator focuses on the financial aspect of the facility, and daily operations. Johnny Dallis is CCDC assistant jail administrator.

"I don't have a lot of face-to-face contact with the inmates now. I deal with finances and mostly policy and procedure - general operations," said Girdner.

Chennault said he relies on Girdner for his knowledge, and vise versa. Girdner said they have a great working relationship and support with Chennault, the county commissioners, and surrounding outside agencies.

"Even though we're not run by the sheriff like a lot jails in the state are, we still yet have a great working relationship with them," he said. "We do work off tax revenue so we have a really nice facility compared to some of these other counties."

Girdner will receive an award during a banquet in Norman on Oct. 15.

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