Although elections are a little more than a year away, Bulloch County sheriff’s candidates are already active on the campaign trail. Incumbent Noel Brown is opposed by challenger Keith Howard, who spoke recently at a Bulloch County Republican Party meeting.
Brown is slated to speak next on Oct. 8, said Bulloch County Republican Party president Reid Derr.
several issues of concern he said he would address if elected sheriff,
“transparency, unnecessary spending and networking.”
He promised to “be mindful of taxpayers’ money” and to be fully accountable and straightforward in dealing with the public as well as county leaders.
“I can’t sell an Eskimo ice,” he told the small crowd. “But I have a passion for Bulloch County, and I am serious about this campaign.”
Keeping the public better informed about county crime and safety is one area he said he would target if elected.
“Today’s sheriff is more of an administrative position. A good sheriff has to have a vision to run the public’s business.”
Transparency is vital to running an efficient and successful Sheriff’s Office, he said.
“Not keeping the public informed won’t work. You have to be transparent and report everything that is going on to the public.”
Howard said spending should be curbed within the Sheriff’s Office, and efforts should be directed more toward fighting crime.
He mentioned excessive overtime as one concern, referring to Brown’s “campaign promise” to reduce overtime. That promise was not only unfulfilled, but the overtime has increased dramatically, he said.
Another area of spending he questions is the current sheriff’s motorcycle division. He said he obtained records that show that two motorcycle deputies cost taxpayers “over a half-million dollars in the past three and a half years,” but during that time, one only issued 12 traffic citations and the other, 39.
“I have documents showing these figures if anyone wants to see them,” he said.
Motorcycle deputies could be more productive, he said.
“I love motorcycles — but the way we have been using them, we can do better. I have to say — what are we doing with motorcycles besides escorting funerals?”
If the sheriff wants to expand the motorcycle division, more duties need to be added, he said.
“The Sheriff’s Office hardly ever handles any (traffic) accidents. They call the State Patrol. A deputy can work a deer wreck.”
Howard said if he is elected, he will focus on areas he feels are lacking attention, such as the opioid crisis, gangs and human trafficking.
“If you don’t think we have gangs in Bulloch County, you are wrong,” he said, referring as an example to the recent homicide of a teenage male whose body was found near a city park.
Methamphetamine use is on the rise as well, and he is concerned over the disbanding of a multi-agency partnership that targeted such crimes, he said.
The former Crime Suppression Team, which consisted of officers from the Statesboro and Georgia Southern University police departments as well as Bulloch County sheriff’s deputies, was a successful endeavor, but Brown ended the partnership, he said.
GS and Statesboro police still work together with the SPD Impact Team, but “why is the Sheriff’s Office not involved?” he asked.
It is important for a sheriff to “network” with other agencies — local, state and federal — Howard said.
“We are doing no networking with the feds.”
He used a massive drug bust in Screven County last year as an example of how such partnerships are successful.
“Screven County Sheriff Mike Kile worked with federal agencies,” and the sting netted several arrests from not only Screven County, but Statesboro and other areas, he said.
Brown recently told the Statesboro Herald he stopped receiving federal prisoners earlier this year because he needs the space for local inmates. He has cited a need for a jail expansion, a need that Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch acknowledged existed far before Brown’s election in 2016.
But Howard disagrees with the decision to refuse federal inmates, who each bring in $50 revenue daily.
By not accepting federal inmates to be housed in the jail, the county is losing “$400,000 to $500,000 a year,” he said, adding that he supports a suggestion to use available bed space in the adjacent Bulloch County Correctional Institution to house inmates.
He praised Brown’s Drug Abuse Resistance and Education, or DARE, efforts.
“DARE officers do a whale of a job, and I have no complaints with that,” he said.
But if elected, he said he hopes to add the Choosing Healthy Activities and Methods Promoting Safety, or CHAMPS, program as well. Designed by the Georgia Sheriff’s Association, the program is aimed at fifth-graders.
Howard also spoke of the importance of a sheriff working closely with county leaders for the betterment of citizens.
“Brown has publicly threatened to sue commissioners if he didn’t get what he wants. I looked back at (a video of a sheriff’s debate between Brown and another candidate in 2016) and he made that threat during the debate,” he said.
Problems arise when one department makes demands that could affect other departments, he told the group.
“When you rob Peter to pay Paul, you end up with potholes and unpaved dirt roads.”
Another idea he spoke of was to use “veterans, retired officers” and others as reserve deputies in situations in which a certified officer is not needed. The positions could be voluntary or paid at a lower rate that a deputy, he said.
In wrapping up, Howard promised that, if elected, he would be a good steward of taxpayers’ money, work with the county leaders to resolve budget and jail overcrowding concerns, engage in partnerships with other governmental and law enforcement agencies, and keep the public better informed about what is going on within the Sheriff’s Office.
“We have got to do the best with the people’s money that we can do,” he said. “We have got to have an administrator who is not in it for political or personal gain, one who will work with commissioners, communicate with the public, who networks with partners. One person can’t win the race.”
Derr said Brown will be able to address the Bulloch County Republican Party at its next meeting Oct. 8. The Statesboro Herald will be present to cover the upcoming meeting and Brown’s presentation.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.