Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells has appointed a current member of the jail staff to become the county's jailer next month.
Wells has appointed Jake Banta, 44, who currently does administrative and investigative work at the jail, to lead the Franklin County Regional Jail on Sept. 1 after current Jailer Rick Rogers retires. Until he takes office, Banta will serve as acting chief deputy under Rogers to learn about the current administration.
What do you think of the appointment of Jake Banta as Franklin County jailer?
“I promise to handle all situations with professionalism and integrity. When decisions need to be made, they will be made with integrity,” Banta said. “We will always do the right thing, even when it's hard. And my staff will follow in that pursuit, I hope.”
Banta said working at the jail is feels like a homecoming. He started his career in 2001 as a corrections officer. He has since served in other roles, including assistant supervisor, supervisor, transport officer and transport supervisor.
Banta worked at Franklin County Sheriff's Office from 2007 until earlier this year, most recently as night shift supervisor. At FCSO, Banta worked night and day shifts on patrol, became a detective and was the sergeant of the detectives.
Banta left FCSO four months ago after receiving an injury in January while he and a deputy were in pursuit of a suspect. The chase started out in vehicles, but the suspect got out of his car after it wrecked and ran away on foot.
Banta sustained a shoulder injury while tracking down the suspect, the first major injury of his career, he said. He was off work from January to May, due to surgery and recovery, and Sheriff Chris Quire and Rogers talked about bringing Banta back to the jail, so he could start light-duty work again.
“I didn’t want to sit at home and not do anything,” Banta said. “I’m a busybody. I like don’t like sitting at home.”
In the past few months at FCRJ, Banta said, he has had the opportunity to work with the staff at the jail and learn about changes made in the time that he was at FCSO.
“I have the utmost respect for Jailer Rogers and what he and his staff have accomplished at the jail in the past five years," Banta said. "He’s improved the jail.”
Banta said under Rogers' leadership, the jail has been successful despite being an old facility. He added that the staff does a job “that a lot of people don’t want to do and they do it well.”
Banta also gave credit to Rogers for expanding and implementing Standard Operating Procedures to ensure the safety of everyone at the jail. He plans to continue a thorough level of training at the jail and possibly expand it a bit.
Banta said that Rogers has “served his community and country for 20 years, faithfully, and he has done an excellent job.”
Rogers announced his retirement Friday during a Franklin County Fiscal Court meeting. Citing changes to the Kentucky Retirement Systems that could adversely affect his pension, Rogers told the court he would continue in his role until next month.
Rogers said he has worked with Banta for many years, both at the jail and at FCSO, and Rogers has faith in Banta to lead the jail. Rogers said Banta will be able to mitigate lawsuits against the jail and will be able to work with judiciary officials. Banta’s experience as a worker in the jail will also allow him to relate to jail employees, Rogers said.
“I think he will be an outstanding jailer with his commitment and integrity and professionalism.”
Wells, who had the responsibility to appoint Rogers’ successor under state law, said that when Rogers initially talked about retiring, Wells, Rogers and Deputy Judge-Executive Tambra Harrod discussed certain criteria that they wanted in a jailer.
Wells said the group wanted someone who was already on staff at the jail and someone who had at least eight years of experience in law enforcement, five years of experience in supervising personnel, five years of experience with managing budgets and previous experience working with judiciary officials.
Wells said Rogers identified three candidates on his staff and Wells and Harrod interviewed them. He said the way Banta talked about not just the safety of inmates but the importance of continuing programs started under Rogers’ tenure, such as working on programs to rehabilitate inmates with Sgt. Ashley Mulder, increasing the number of GEDs obtained by inmates and inmates completing community service, influenced Wells to appoint Banta. Wells also said that Banta and Rogers have similar experiences in their careers.
“I have the utmost faith in Mr. Banta’s abilities. He has the administrative and law enforcement experience necessary to run the jail properly until the next election,” Wells.
Banta thanked Rogers, Wells and Harrod for supporting him and said he looks forward to working with Fiscal Court in the future.
Wells said another important factor was that he wanted to appoint someone who did not have the desire to run for re-election, and Banta said he has no plans to run for the office of jailer in a 2020 special election. The office will be on the ballot in the 2020 election cycle, meaning a primary election will be in May and a general election will be in November. Banta will serve as jailer for about 15 months. Rogers retired less than a year after being elected to a second four-year term.
Tracy Hopper, who ran against Rogers in the last election, sent an email over the weekend to Wells and all magistrates on the Fiscal Court expressing her interest in the position. She wrote that at the time of the last election, she and Rogers were the only candidates who “wanted the position” and she cited her experience in working at the jail beginning in 1986 and then as a staff sergeant. She said she resigned as a pretrial officer at the Administrative Office of the Courts to run for jailer.
“My desire to serve Franklin County as Jailer is as strong today as the day I signed my name to run for this office,” she wrote.
Wells declined to comment on Hopper’s email.
Banta will be sworn in on Aug. 23 at the jail at noon, and the staff will have a reception to wish Rogers well in retirement.