A former Bulloch County sheriff’s deputy threw his hat into the ring recently by publicly announcing his intent to run for the office of Bulloch County sheriff.
Rey Rodriguez said he is running on the Independent ticket, in a move meant to bring people together and not be tied to political parties. He said he wants to be a sheriff for everyone and is “trying to bring people back to the middle.” He doesn’t agree with the sheriff position being partisan and said while he “leans toward conservative, I am a little to the left on some issues.”
Republican candidate Keith Howard announced his intent to run for sheriff earlier this year. Current sheriff Noel Brown, also Republican, has not yet responded to questions from the Statesboro Herald as to whether he intends to seek a second term or when he intends to announce his run.
Rodriguez said he feels the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office “needs more leadership” and said he has the experience to provide it.
“I believe I can make a change for the better,” he said.
Having been in law enforcement for 14 years and still working as a deputy in another county, he said his 20-plus years in the military, including deployment, counts for a great deal toward leadership as well. As a platoon sergeant, he has led units containing anywhere from 10 to 100 soldiers, he said.
“I have the right mind frame to be a good leader. Being SWAT gives you a different perspective.”
He said he would like to see the county Sheriff’s Office become more diverse.
“We need to be able to approach everybody from different walks of life, let them know we care about them.”
Rodriguez sees a need to get everyone on a level playing field, working together with other agencies and the state to build a better community relationship, he said.
He is concerned about the level of crime in Bulloch and feels there should be more teamwork between law enforcement agencies. The Sheriff’s Office leaving the Crime Suppression Team, which was a three-agency partnership with the Statesboro and Georgia Southern police departments, was a mistake, he said.
“Crime is on the rise, and bringing back the CST is a necessity. Georgia Southern and Statesboro police have the Impact Team, but the sheriff chose to leave the CST.”
Reuniting the CST would reduce crime, he said.
“The CST proved it worked and was efficient. Why would we not continue this?”
Saving taxpayers’ money
Rodriguez promised county residents he would be “financially responsible” if elected.
“Overtime (within the sheriff’s department) is way out of control. I can put policies in place to help, and we may want to change the work week to 10 hours a day, four days a week,” he said.
Splitting the county into zones and controlling response to calls could result in “more efficient coverage,” he said. “We have to concentrate on that.”
Rodriguez said he has noticed that recruitment is not high, and that a drastic number of deputies have left the Sheriff’s Office over the past few years, including some he said were effective and successful investigators. He says the county doesn’t need to lower its standards to fill positions but needs to recruit top deputies.
“We need to work with the Statesboro police on recruitment,” he said.
The number of drug arrests, especially larger scale operations, has declined, he said. His concern is the loss of “so much experience” regarding the 24 or more deputies and investigators he said have left the Sheriff’s Office since 2016. He provided a list of the names of over two dozen who are no longer employed by the Sheriff’s Office.
“Why did they leave? Did they (the Sheriff’s Office) conduct exit interviews?”
He shared a theory: “People didn’t feel they had a clear path to move forward and progress. When you lose a base this big, you lose a lot of experience. God forbid if we ever needed to activate a SWAT team.”
Ideas if elected
Rodriguez said he has several plans ready to put into action should he be elected next November.
One is having programs in place “dealing with disadvantaged youth to help make them less susceptible to being involved with a gang.”
He also said he would get to know his employees personally. Being a good sheriff involves “knowing the people in your office and understanding their needs.”
He said he feels he can make the reporting process for citations and lesser matters simpler and less time consuming and would work with the state to get a “HEAT (traffic) unit,” something the current sheriff has not accomplished, he said.
“It could be easy if we just work together on it.”
Regarding the jail, which he said is “a very complex department,” Rodriguez said administrators and jailers need more assistance. A lot of jail employees use the position as a stepping stone to become road deputies, but he would seek employees who like and prefer the jail position, he said. Also, jail should be treated like “housing” for inmates waiting for adjudication, not as punishment.
“We are not in the position to punish.”
This will help with overcrowding, as will working with local judges on sentencing options such as time off for good behavior, he said.
As sheriff, he would also reinstate the housing of federal inmates, which Brown ended.
“It was a mistake to let go of the U.S. Marshals program,” which paid Bulloch County $50 a day per inmate house, he said. “We could put that money back into the county and pay deputies and jailers who want overtime.”
A 16-year resident of Bulloch County, he considers it his home.
“Over the past several months, I have been listening to the citizens of Bulloch County,” he said. “Your voices, along with my law enforcement and military experience, inspired me to develop campaign focus areas.”
These are “to make Bulloch County a safer community in which to raise families and live, to chase crime and criminals from our community, and to live up to the promises I make.”
He was born in Puerto Rico in 1973 and raised by a single mother. They moved to Brooklyn, New York, when he was 4, and years later, he graduated from the High School of Art and Design.
Rodriguez joined the U.S. Army in 1992 and was honorably discharged in 2003.
He worked with the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office from 2004–2018. He rejoined the U.S. Army Reserve in 2010 and is currently serving.
He has two sons, Michael Anthony Rodriguez and Asher Rey Rodriguez, and recently married the former Melanie Hendrix Lewis.
He has achieved several honorable recognitions while serving as a Bulloch County deputy, including the BCSO Medal of Honor 2010, the Georgia Sheriff’s Association Georgia Sheriff’s Deputy of the Year in 2011 and 2017, and the Bulloch County Commission Proclamation in 2011 and is the only deputy ever to be awarded the BCSO Meritorious Service Ribbon, in 2014. He was also given the BCSI Lifesaving Medal for saving a young boy’s life in 2017 when he pulled an overturned UTV off the child.
For more information on Rodriguez’s campaign, visit his website at www.ReyRey2020.com.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.