Major TJ Wood: Trading 20 years of service for a new mission

Published 8:00 am Saturday, August 12, 2023

After 20 years of serving the community, Chambers County Sheriff’s Deputy Major TJ Wood has announced his retirement from the sheriff’s office to become the director of the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Youth Ranch. 

“I’m so excited about this opportunity, and I’m so appreciative to the entire ranch organization for giving me this opportunity,” Wood said. 

Many community members were surprised when Wood announced his retirement, but he said the support he has received has made the transition that much easier.

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“I just appreciate the citizens of Chambers County and everything that they have done over the last week,” Wood said.

Michael Smith, CEO of the Alabama Sheriff’s Youth Ranches, said the organization is fortunate to have gained a community servant like Wood as a director.

“TJ was making a difference way before he came to work at these ranches,” Smith said. “TJ now is going to make a difference continuously in years to come to change young lives.”

For many years, Sheriff Sid Lockhart took an active role in community support programs. Last year, Lockhart retired after 40 years in law enforcement and was succeeded by Sheriff Jeff Nelson.

“I want to give kudos to Sheriff Jeff Nelson for what a great job he’s done and supporting the ranches,” Smith said.

Wood began volunteering at the ranch with Lockhart three years ago. Since then, he said he and his wife, Jetta, grew close to the ranch’s mission and wanted to support the ranchers any chance they got.

“They’re not in this organization based on what they’ve done,” Wood said. “They’re there because of the cards that they’ve been dealt.” 

Wood said the relationships he and his wife have built with the ranchers are amazing. For him, he said the decision was an easy one. 

“I felt like for a long time now this is where I was supposed to be,” Wood said.

The Alabama Sheriff’s Youth Ranch nonprofit organization was founded in 1966 by the state’s sheriffs. The organization currently has four ranches across the state: Baldwin County Boys Ranch, Colbert County Girls Ranch, St. Clair County Boys Ranch and Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch.

The Tallapoosa County Girl’s Ranch is one of the working ranches in the organization. Smith said the organization’s goal is to give Alabama youth a positive Christian environment to live in to become productive young men and women. 

“It’s easier to build boys and girls than to repair men and women,” Smith said. “And we love doing that.”

This past year six ranchers graduated from high school. Seven young people are going to college or trade school. Smith said 22 young people were baptized in the last year. 

“It’s a game changer,” Smith said. 

One goal for the ranch is to expand the living quarters. The Tallapoosa County Girl’s Ranch currently houses 17 young people. With an additional house, eight more girls could move in. 

“I want to say thank you to the sheriffs of Alabama for embracing these young people that are from Alabama,” Smith said. “They live in the state of Alabama and make a difference in their lives.”

Although he is leaving the sheriff’s office, Wood said he will still be a servant to the community. He plans to support and foster a stronger relationship between the ranch and Chambers, Lee and Tallapoosa Counties.