Law enforcement wasn’t the first career choice for Bulloch County sheriff’s Sr. Deputy Maurice Lester. In fact, he spent 22 years working for a local automobile dealership before a friend talked him into trying something new — and now, six years later, he finds himself the 2016 Bulloch County Sheriff’s Deputy of the Year.
Lester said he doesn’t know why his peers chose him for the honor, but Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown had no hesitation in explaining why Lester deserves the title.
Brown and Chief Deputy Bill Black abstained from voting, but that doesn’t mean they don’t recognize Lester’s worth, he said.
“No matter what needs to be taken care of at the office, he asks, ‘What can I do to help?’” Brown said. “Maurice can speak to anybody, from a small child to an adult. He has that ‘verbal judo’ that gets the job done, with respect for others.”
Lester is a Portal native, born to parents Wyman and Irene Jackson Lester, who were farmers. He graduated from Portal High School in 1989 and soon thereafter began working for Franklin Chevrolet, where he became a supervisor and an assistant used car manager.
He had been there for two decades when his friend and now coworker, Capt. Todd Mashburn, suggested he become a sheriff’s deputy. He did, and according to his peers, he is one of the best.
“He is a real hard charger,” Mashburn said, recalling why he encouraged Lester to apply with the Sheriff’s Office. “I’ve known him for years, went to the gym together, and he always had a good personality. His work ethic is second to none. He is a go, go, go type of guy.”
The change from working at a car dealership to wearing a badge was a big one, Lester said. He began working at the jail and was later promoted to deputy. He currently serves civil warrants.
“No one wants to see me coming,” he said.
Lester says he believes his Christian background helps him do his job.
“I always pray before I go out,” he said.
Treating people with respect, even if they may be accused of having done wrong, and even when he is bearing bad news, is important, he said, paraphrasing Matthew 7:12 of the Bible: “I give respect and hopefully get respect back.”
For the past six years, Lester has worked in the civil warrants department, and when he serves such things as divorce papers, child custody papers or bench warrants, “I try to give (the recipient) confidence,” he said.
“I tell them it is a job I have to do,” he said. I tell them (being served with papers) is not the end of the world. They can either deal with it now or worry until later.”
He said he is humbled that his peers have elected him the Deputy of the Year and hopes to live up to their expectations.
“My parents raised me to work hard, and Sheriff Brown (who worked in the civil warrants division before he was elected sheriff in November) trained me to follow in his footsteps,” Lester said.
“Once he got his foot in the door, he really started progressing,” said Mashburn, who taught Lester in the police academy after Lester decided he wanted to move up from being a certified jailer.
“He is a good Christian man who knows how to handle people,” Brown said. “We appreciate him.”
Lester and his wife, Meshell, have four adult children. They attend Whitesville Full Gospel Church.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.