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Candidates make appeals to Long County voters
Long County historic marker

Editor’s note: Second of two parts. The first report on the Long County political forum appeared Sunday.

Long County candidates for several offices came out May 10 to the Roundtable restaurant to speak about why voters should cast a ballot for them in the upcoming elections.

Each candidate spoke one by one. Below are some of the qualifications and initiatives candidates talked about.

Probate Court judge (non-partisan)

Rita Deen

Deen is from Long County and has lived there most of her adult life. After the birth of her second child, she decided to become a stay-at-home mother.

“And I must tell you, I believe that was the best decision that I ever made as a parent,” she said.

Deen listed the qualifications for the Probate Court judge, which allows Long County residents who are American citizens older than age 25 with a high school degree to run. Those elected then must attend mandatory classes by the state.

“It is because of my love for this county and the citizens that I desire to serve you to be elected as your probate judge,” she 

said. “I will promise to uphold the law and make all judgments according to the law without showing bias to any certain individuals.”
If elected, Deen promises she will be mindful of how tax dollars are spent on the office’s day-to-day operations.

Teresa Odum
Odum cited her 28 years of experience in the judicial system as her qualification for the seat, listing judges and lawyers she had worked with in the past. For the past six years, Odum has worked for attorney John Pirkle as a paralegal.

“I have the experience of preparing the pleas and the documents that are actually filed in Probate Court,” she said. “In addition to that, I have the experience researching the law and attending the hearings that are held on behalf of probate.”

She said experience and education are important for the position because the court “handles situations in crucial times in people’s lives.”

If elected, Odum would like to update the office’s technology, including online filing, “so that we can be more productive and more efficient.”

Bobby Smith

Smith is also a lifelong county resident and said the law is “deep in my family,” referencing his grandfather who retired as a deputy and grandmother who worked as a dispatcher.

“The Probate Court is something that I’ve wanted to do forever,” he said. “When I graduated, I said this is what I want to do.”
Smith said he wants the job because God’s gift to him was to be a servant.

“And in this job, he’s going to let me do two things that I love to do: serve the people of this county and deal with law,” he said.

Besides being qualified for the job, Smith said, “I have over 500 hours of training in leadership.”


Shane Middleton (D)
Middleton has lived in Long County for more than 21 years and has more than 18 years of law-enforcement experience, including a bachelor’s in criminal justice from Armstrong State University.

He said the job is hard. “It’s never easy trying to enforce the law in a small community,” he said. “But it’s easy to do because you have to follow what the guidelines are.”

Middleton said people talk about bringing a jail to the county, but it currently cannot afford one. If the county keeps growing like it is, he said, then the county will eventually have to build one.

“$821,000 a year right now is going to other counties to house our inmates,” he said.

Timothy Works (R)

Works was formerly a first sergeant of the Fort Stewart Military Police and said he’s “just an ordinary guy” running for sheriff.

“I hear every day somebody say, ‘I’m voting for so and so because I know his daddy. I’m voting for so and so because he’s got the most signs, so that shows the most desire. I’m voting for so and so because I went to school with her,’” he said. “All these reasons I’m not for sure those is good reasons to vote for someone. If you think it is, we’ll continue on that same path, and we’ll have the same results.”

As the acting provost marshal sergeant major on Fort Stewart, “I was responsible for 500 soldiers and civilians. Every MP on Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield worked for me,” he said.

“I think Long County, Ludowici, have been suffering from a lack of communication,” Works said.

Craig Nobles
(D, incumbent)

Nobles listed his work during his time in office since being elected in 2012.

“One of my priorities when I was elected was to make sure and try to increase the training for deputies in the Sheriff’s Office,” he said.

Nobles added that the office’s work has gotten more complicated. He put a security deputy in the courthouse to secure the building.

He also mentioned community initiatives his office has been involved with, including the annual Prom Promise for high school juniors and seniors and the National Night Out.

State Senate, District 19

Delvis Dutton (R)

Dutton is from Glennville, and his wife has taught at Smiley Elementary School for 15 years. He said his family has a “significant vested interest” in the county because his children attend school there.

“The heart and soul of the people in Long, it shows in everything that they’re doing,” Dutton said.

“This county has faced some struggles over the last 15 years. We’ve lived them with you,” he said.

Dutton previously served in the state House for four years. He said he was asked to join this race in order to serve the 11 counties of District 19, which includes Long and portions of Liberty, the same way he did in the House.

“I will say my learning curve is not in Atlanta, my learning curve is going to be these counties and making sure they’re very well represented,” he said.

The May 24 election “is a very important race for Long County to have representation on the state level much like the rest of the counties that’s in this district,” he said.

Kevin Parker (R)

Parker said he has more than 20 years of experience “advocating on behalf of small business and family farms.”

His experience has taught him that “the only way that you can grow the community is through jobs,” he said.

If elected, his three most important things will be “jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said.

“We have to create jobs in Georgia,” Parker said, by creating a fair tax, business regulations and “set up an education system that works.”

Blake Tillery (R)

Tillery is chairman of the Toombs County commissioners. He said he was elected on a platform of lowering taxes, paving roads and getting cities and counties to work together for jobs. “And I’m now taking that same platform almost verbatim to the state level,” Tillery said.

He wants to cut taxes and invest in infrastructure to attract businesses to the area.

“If we want our kids to have options here … then we’ve got to make the investments today to make that happen,” he said.

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