Vernessia Thicklin – serving Lowndes with a mother’s heart

Published 6:19 pm Thursday, July 13, 2023

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Lowndes County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Vernessia Thicklin is a 40-year law enforcement officer and has served her community in that capacity for roughly 35 years. Her career is much more than a job, she said, and represents a daily opportunity to live out her faith in God by showing kindness and compassion to the residents of her home county.

“[God] gives me the patience and compassion to deal with everyone as an individual,” Thicklin said. “Not everybody is the same or walks the same path and not everybody is a Christian. I see that God put me here as a beacon of light. Whatever people need, I try to be that for them. I don’t wear my feelings on my sleeve, and I ask God to use me however he needs to use me as His vessel. My prayer every day is, ‘Use me wherever you need me because I know I am protected by you.’”

Thicklin grew up in the Black Belt community near White Hall. After high school, she attended Alabama State University and pursued a career as an attorney before realizing law was not the path God had planned for her life.

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The veteran officer began her career with the Montgomery Police Department and worked there for six years. She transitioned to Lowndes County under then Sheriff John Hulett out of a desire to bring something back to her community.

Local resident, Viola McBride, has known Thicklin going on 25 years. According to McBride, Thicklin is a friend she can talk to and someone who seeks ways to help others, especially local children, in every way possible.

“If anything comes up, and she can lend a helping hand in any way, whether its monetary or whatever, she’s going to help,” McBride said. “She’s going to treat your kids just like she treated her kids. The elderly – she’s going to do what she can for them, not just as a law enforcement officer, but in her personal life too.”

Thicklin is wife to Joe Nathan Lewis, the mother of three daughters, stepmother to four daughters, and grandmother to eight, soon to be nine, grandchildren. She also served as a foster parent for over 30 years, providing love and a home to 19 foster children.

“My mom was a foster parent so I grew up with foster kids,” Thicklin said. “I love giving back to my community. I took kids into my household who were the same as my kids. I treated my kids’ friends like my own too. If my kids ate, they ate. If my kids got disciplined, they did too.”

McBride witnessed the impact Thicklin had in the lives of community children and noted the ways in which she sought to help the children she encountered.

“So many kids throughout the years have felt the love they never would have had at home,” McBride said. “They received so many things they would have never had at home. The kids look different and act differently because she opened her door to them.”

As Lieutenant, Thicklin heads the department’s civil service department – coordinating the serving of official court papers and officer services at events like school safety programs. During her time with the department, she has served under five sheriffs and each one, helped to shape her life. 

But Thicklin credits current Lowndes County Sheriff Chris West with providing the encouragement and support she needs to look forward to serving her community each day.

“I tell him all the time he is the wind beneath my wings because sometimes after 40 years of service, people wake up and find they are tired of going to work,” Thicklin said. “I never looked at myself in 40 years and [reflected] on what I can’t do. I’ve always focused on what I can do to make someone else’s life better.”