(a) Upon the occurrence of a vacancy in the office of Chief Deputy Sheriff of Jefferson County, such office shall cease to be in the classified service of the county pursuant to the county civil service or merit system law. Thereafter the Chief Deputy Sheriff of Jefferson County shall be an employee of the county in the unclassified service. Such chief deputy shall be appointed by the sheriff without regard to the county civil service or merit system law, and he or she shall serve at the pleasure of the sheriff.
(b) The compensation of the Chief Deputy Sheriff of Jefferson County shall be a salary payable out of the county treasury, in the same manner and at the same time as the salaries of other employees of such county are paid. The chief deputy shall receive salary compensation in an amount equal either to (1) an amount 15 percent more than the total salary being paid to the highest paid employee of Jefferson County serving under the sheriff, other than the Chief Deputy or the Assistant Sheriff, Bessemer Division; or, (2) such greater amount as shall be fixed by the sheriff with the approval of the county commission. The chief deputy shall also receive the same benefits as do employees in the classified service of the county, including longevity or any other kind of pay.
(c) The Sheriff of Jefferson County shall not fill the position of chief deputy in the manner herein authorized until the next vacancy in such office occurs.