Bulloch County Sheriff’s candidate Keith Howard has been quiet for the early part of the sheriff’s race, and with reason. But with two months until the election, he wants to remind people they still have a choice.
Howard chose to run on the Democratic ticket instead of splitting votes three ways in the primary, where Republican candidates Jared Akins and Noel Brown faced off. Brown won the primary.
However, regardless of which ticket a voter pulls, Republican or Democrat, both Brown and Howard will be on the ballot and Howard said he wants people to know, if he is elected, his service to the citizens won’t be partisan.
“I feel I am a person who can represent all people in our county, not just Portal people or those who support me,” he said. “I am not for any special interest groups, or certain political party – I am for the deputies, the people, everyone in the county.”
Howard, a Bulloch County native, has a long history of diverse law enforcement experience. He joined the Georgia State Patrol as dispatcher in 1984, went to trooper school in Forsyth in 1987 and then went to work as a state trooper, stationed in Atlanta, Douglas, Thompson, Rincon, Reidsville, Sylvania, Savannah and finally, in Statesboro.
After his retirement from GSP, Howard began working with the late Jenkins County Sheriff Bobby Womack, serving as chief deputy from about two years until he took a break from law enforcement and focused on his private businesses.
As state trooper, Howard received extensive training in a multitude of areas. “I have approximately 3,000 training hours under my belt,” he said. “You name it and I have probably been to school on it.”
Those training hours include VIP protection, drug Interdiction, driving school, marijuana courses, impaired driving school, prisoner training; first responder, first aid and CPR.
Howard is a certified operator of the Georgia Crime Information Center system; certified in Operation Lifesaver; and has attended training in courtroom testimony, proper evidence gathering, storing and labeling; and crowd and riot control.
Howard has also received Georgia Bureau of Investigation training in assisting agents with stolen items and crimes; criminal investigation courses and has attended several multi agency seminars on the war on drug, he said.
As a state trooper, “I have worked accidents from simple deer wrecks to multi-vehicle fatality accidents.”
As Jenkins County Chief Deputy, Howard supervised other deputies, handled administrative duties, assisted in jail operations and supervision, as well as investigated an assortment of crimes including drug offenses, assaults, burglaries, domestic incidents and murders.
On a personal note
While law enforcement has been a major part of his life, private business has also kept Howard busy. He grew up farming and as an adult, owned several companies including construction and landscaping; and currently owns a successful septic and portable toilet business.
Married to Gail Beasley Howard of the Southeast Bulloch community, Howard said “I have ties to the Westside area. My mother was a Deal, my father was from Screven County.”
He graduated from Statesboro High School and Swainsboro Technical College, and attended Brenau University with college hours in criminal justice.
His wife is in the medical field and he has a daughter, Hannah, who is in her final year in college and will become a teacher; and a son, Keith Jr., who is in 5th grade at Mattie Lively Elementary School.
Howard said he has always been interested in law enforcement. “I was a volunteer fireman and the camaraderie (between public safety agencies) attracted me towards that field.”
As both a state trooper and chief deputy, Howard has been the recipient of countless awards from various law enforcement agencies, Mothers Against Drunk Driving; the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, U.S. Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Agency and US Marshal Service.
What does he do in his spare time? “Man cave stuff,” he said. “Camping, boating, I like to fish and hunt.” He collects arrow heads he finds himself, NASCAR memorabilia, and has a love for classic antique vehicles.
He has restored and shown in car shows an authentic 1991 Mustang state trooper patrol car; a 1972 Chevrolet pickup that belonged to his grandfather, and a 1952 F1 pickup.
Plans if elected
Howard has plans to continue improvement of what he calls an already-stellar sheriff’s department if elected, but one thing is certain – he doesn’t plan on firing anyone or eliminating any positions, regardless of whether employees supported him in the election, he said.
“I plan to keep everyone on in the position they are in for now, and handle promotions on a merit basis,” he said. ”If everyone is doing a good job, why change?”
He also said he will handle all media and public information needs himself, instead of designating another person to the job.
“I’ll be the public information officer for the department. I feel the sheriff needs to be the one who meets with the media, not a designated part of his department,” he said. “I’ll be open and transparent – nothing to hide – I will submit information as the law allows.”
He said he intends to look into securing body cameras for deputies if the expense is feasible, and intends to make sure the department needs are maintained and supplemented as much as possible, keeping taxes in mind.
“We have to be proactive as a sheriff. You can’t wait for (trouble) to fall into your lap.”
Programs like DARE (drug awareness education), STEP (Sheriff’s Targeted Enforcement Patrol) and Statesboro-Bulloch County Crime Suppression Team are vital to the department’s success in keeping the community safe and crime under control, he said.
The CST is a vital instrument to use on the war against drugs and crime and is a positive resource for school safety, using dog patrols and officers dropping in on schools, he said. “I see a great future with the CST in expanding for our community. It would be negative for our community if it were to be abolished.”
Howard also said if elected, he will promote partnership with other law enforcement agencies, continuing a tradition that has long been held by the current sheriff’s department. He also hopes to develop and maintain a great working partnership with county leaders.
“I cannot do this alone – it must be a joint effort with county commissioners and the county manager.”
Howard’s goals for the sheriff’s department is to repair a rift that widened during the early part of the sheriff’s race, with passionate support within the department for both Akins and Brown.
“I want unity, no division,” he said. “Law enforcement today has enough obstacles hurled against them without deputies worrying about division and cliques at work.”
Deputies and other employees “need to be available to come to work and concentrate on the job at hand, and not worry about whether they will have a job,” he said.
Howard promised to treat everyone equally, and “not promise positions or political favors in exchange for votes.” He said promotions will be made in accordance with job performances “and not just for an elite group of employees.”
As for the taxpayers’ money, he said he will be a good steward of it and will not make unnecessary changes or additions, nor will he authorize unwarranted expenses. A major focus will be finding an affordable way to add deputies, filling a longtime need and reducing overtime while providing maximum coverage for crime prevention and investigation, he said.
I’m running a grassroots campaign,” he said, adding that he has not spent a great deal of money on signs and advertising, finding doing so can be wasteful.
“I’m not all about spending,” he said. “Signs don’t vote, and billboards and signs don’t reduce crime.”
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912)489-9414.