Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Keith Moran has come full circle, finishing his career where he first began.
Moran, who plans to retire Dec. 31, was named to his post by the late Sheriff J. Don Martin. Moran was sworn in by Martin on Jan. 1, 1993, and has served as the chief deputy ever since.
Before becoming the chief, he had more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement. In the U.S. Army, Moran was a military police officer for seven years and, later, a special agent for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command for 14 years. He spent one year as an investigator for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office before joining the LCSO.
Current Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes said Moran’s experience helped Sikes transition into his position after winning an election to finish Martin’s term.
“He was very helpful,” Sikes said. “Looking back now, I wonder how in the world I could have done it without him, to be honest. He was a vital part of the transition that made it pleasant for me.”
Moran said his military background served him well and prepared him for the role of chief deputy, a title Moran said he thinks of as a law-enforcement manager.
“You are supposed to set the standard and try and figure out how to do things better and cheaper and more efficient and safe,” he said. “It was a small department back then. I had some management experience with the Army, but I think the largest team I had was 20 people. Jumping from 20 to 57 people at the LCSO made those first four years a growing experience for me and for Don.”
With Martin and Moran at the helm, the office expanded and progressed.
“When I came in to the department, there were two typewriters. There were no computers and one of the typewriters didn’t work,” Moran recalls with a laugh. “Realistically, there was no technology.”
When Moran became chief, the LCSO was located in a trailer behind city hall.
Among the first item of business back then was getting raises for the deputies.
“That first year, Don and I helped justify getting the guys a raise. They hadn’t had raises in years,” Moran said. “Of course, we had to have cooperation with the county commission and the other agencies in order to move forward.”
He said some of the biggest accomplishments came in those first few years. They were able to grow the department, ensure they had enough detectives, deputies and jailers to do the job and, with the help of others in the department, introduce new technology and advancements.
Moran said Jail Administrator Doug Franks was sworn in around the same time he was, and Detective Chuck Woodall joined the department shortly after, contributing to the big strides they took.
“They had DNA analysis in the late ’80s, but it was very slow and very expensive,” the retiring chief recalled. “In the early ’90s is when DNA analysis started getting perfected and quicker and more cost-efficient. Detective Chuck Woodall came in as a detective shortly after I came on board and his background was computers. Everybody wears multiple hats, but he helped take us into the computer technology so reports and stuff were a lot easier to do. Before that, everything was done with a pencil — reports, bookings, processing, everything. We were still using 35-millimeter film cameras at that time and now it’s all digital.”
“I think he accomplished a lot. He really did help bring the LCSO into the 21st century,” Sikes said of Moran. “I think he grew the department as fast as possible while in position.”
Moran was stationed at Fort Stewart in 1984 and started working narcotics for the Criminal Investigation Command, which is how he met all the local deputies, Hinesville police officers and his future wife, Grace.
“I was born and raised here, and I am an only child, and if you are born and raised here in Hinesville, back then you weren’t to look at the GIs. Stay away from those GIs, and I did — the first time,” Grace Moran said. “I had Brooke and then divorced, and then I started to work for Judge Cavender, and this bearded, long-haired guy was up at the DA’s office. I heard that he had worked in the military at Fort Stewart and I thought, ‘How could this bearded, long-haired, gnarly-looking Harley Davidson motorcycle rider …’ but then it all came out … and here I am. That was 27 years ago, and we’ve been married 26. Who would have thought that this little ol’ local girl who ended up looking at that GI, dated, married, and that he would end up with a 21-year career as the chief deputy of my county?”
Moran said he is a little scared of retiring. He said he will miss all the people he works with, but he already has plans to continue teaching criminal justice at Armstrong Atlantic State University’s Liberty Campus. He and his wife also are going to spend more time with their family, and Moran is dusting off his Harley.
“I have golf clubs. I’m going to teach, and I plan to have a garden again, so I have a mission,” Moran said.
Grace Moran said she is looking forward to the next chapter of their lives and offered a little insight as to what she plans to do, starting at Moran’s retirement party.
“He was the disco king,” she said, recalling how they danced at the Fort Stewart officer’s club when they were dating. “And I look forward to cutting a rug with him again.”