NOWATA COUNTY, Oklahoma - Nowata County’s new Sheriff said she hopes to have a deputy available to respond to calls by this evening. Commissioners appointed Mirta “Mickey” Hallett as interim Sheriff this morning. “What’s going through my mind right now is, of course, we need to get deputies out on the road. The citizens need protection and they deserve protection," said Hallet.

Hallett takes over a department that’s seen tremendous turnover in the last three years, since James Hallett, the new Sheriff’s husband, retired in 2016. Sheriff Miller, Grissom, Harley, Freeman and Barnett all were appointed or elected and left shortly afterward. The new Sheriff Hallett worked several jobs in the office while her husband held the top job.

Wednesday morning, the Nowata County Commission finalized the resignation of the last sheriff, Terry Sue Barnett. She quit under pressure to put prisoners back in a jail she considers unsafe.

One of her supporters on the Commission, Burke LaRue, almost cried reading a letter of thanks. “I don’t appreciate how this has all come about and the pressures brought about. I’m sorry I can’t help but get emotional about this” he said.

LaRue refused to vote on naming her replacement, but the other two commissioners approved the appointment of the interim Sheriff. Within minutes - Hallett was sworn in by Judge Curtis Gordon - the same judge who had ordered Barnett to move inmates back into the jail.

Hallett said “I think we’re on the road to changing things a little bit” but first she’ll have to see what vehicles they can get on the road, at all. The department’s fleet has a few cars that are roadworthy, and more that are not. Jeff Grissom, a volunteer reserve Deputy - and briefly the interim Sheriff last year, is checking the cars to see which ones are useable.

Sheriff Hallett is moving into her office and planning to check and have the jail cleaned and repaired. Hallett served as jail administrator when her husband was Sheriff, eventually rising to the rank of Major within the department. She retired with her husband. Today, she said she expects to reopen the jail within a week and promises it will be safe. “I know there’s a lot of hard work ahead of us, but I’m feeling very optimistic.”