Five Democrats and one Republican are asking voters to elect them to be the next sheriff of Liberty County.
Current LCSO Steve Sikes is the incumbent going up against four others in his party’s general primary on May 24. Early voting starts Monday.
Rondy C. Bacon (D)
Bacon was certified as a deputy corrections officer in 2012, worked for the Georgia Ports Authority for seven years and currently is a deputy corrections officer with the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.
If he is elected, Bacon said he will first re-establish trust between the people serving the community at the sheriff’s office and their administration. Bacon said he believes in treating people as the professionals that they are.
"I will run an ethical office of high integrity and professionalism that accurately assesses the needs of the county by taking appropriate actions and putting the citizens first"
He said his first priority would be to evaluate the department and restore the department’s commitment, dedication, integrity and accountability.
"Under my administration, the law enforcement presence in our communities, businesses and schools, will result in a significant decrease in crime," he said.
He added that fiscal responsibilities in elected officials are expected because managing public money is a matter that requires public trust.
Will Bowman (D)
Bowman has served his entire 13-year law enforcement career with the Georgia State Patrol. He said the main reason he decided to run was to restore the trust and reunite how people act toward each other and how police react with the people within the community.
"There is no trust anymore and I want to show everybody that you can trust the police," Bowman said. "And that the police are here to help and not to hurt."
Bowman said his military training and continued service to his country and the citizens of Liberty County will foster better communication between the law community and the citizens it serves. He added that he would establish a standard operating procedure for the department.
"We would have a structured format so no one will be ignorant to the fact of what they have to do and when they have to do it," he said.
Bowman plans to implement sensitivity training for the officers in the department and enhance community outreach programs. He added he would review the budget to say where funding could be better spent and reduce costs, while adding additional training for the deputies. He said he would like to add more officers on the road.
"We don’t have enough on the road," he said, adding it would reduce response time. "We need better equipment. Our equipment is aged
Robert Brooks (R)
Brooks has been in law enforcement more than 20 years, employed at the Department of Corrections at Smith Prison and the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy. He said he decided to run because there hasn’t been sufficient change in the past six years.
"Nothing has been done to lower the crime rate, lower the recidivism rate," he said. "The Liberty County Sheriff’s Department is un-accredited so I felt it was time for me to step in and get those things accomplished."
He said if elected the first priority would be to get the department accredited.
"What that does is give us a national standard that every sheriff department or law enforcement agency in the nation should meet," he said. "It would improve service. It would improve communication to the citizens and, the biggest thing it will do, is protect us against liability."
He added he would take animal control and move it under the direction of the sheriff’s department. Brooks said that animal control currently stands alone. He said through attrition he would replace retired or outgoing personnel with deputies. He said that would give him additional deputies on patrol without raising operating costs. He said it would also streamline services as current animal control officers don’t have the authority to arrest or issue warrants.
"By moving it under the sheriff’s office...now it doesn’t require two people to do one job," he said.
Lamar Cook (D)
Currently the Hinesville fire chief, Cook said he has served the citizens of Liberty County in every capacity a public servant could provide for 36 years.
In 1983, he was deputized as a reserve deputy and in 1989 he got mandated as a police officer and worked as a deputy for the LCSO. He was named fire chief in 1998 and worked for Liberty Regional EMS as a paramedic EMT throughout his career.
Cook said he was one of the first members of the Multi Agency Crack Enforcement (MACE) Drug Task Force he helped to implement within the department.
"People have asked me if I am able to do for the sheriff’s department what I have done for the fire department," he said when asked why he decided to run.
His mission would be to transform the LCSO into a proactive department instead of being reactive.
"Our public safety education program is second to none in the state," He said referring to programs he implemented for the fire department. He said he would implement the same for the LCSO.
"I think it is better to plan ahead and be proactive," he said.
However, he said his first priority would be to evaluate every inch of the department to determine what changes were needed and which would be the most effective.
"You have to evaluate the department and you have to be careful about implementing a bunch of programs because you still have to serve warrants, you still have to serve subpoenas and take people to court. You still have to answer calls, patrol the streets and work cases. You have to be careful of starting too many programs because you don’t want to start a program that is not going to be successful."
He said he would evaluate each division and all personnel before deciding what changes need to be made.
"But I can promise you we will be proactive," he said.
He added he would be fiscally responsible as he has been for the fire department even through recessions in the economy.
"I want to be as transparent as you can be," he added saying he would form a team and make sure the public knew who represented the LCSO and avoid racial issues such as in some communities across the nation.
"I’ve been serving this community for 36 years, none of the other candidates have," he said. "I’ve never served outside of this county and have served this community for 36 years."
Elton Dudley (D)
The Pentecostal preacher said his main mission is to place the needs of the people before the needs of the government and stop wasting the taxpayers’ money on unnecessary expenses.
"We need to stop building all these fancy buildings and listen to what the people want," he said.
Listed as a salesman in his qualifying papers, Dudley said he also has law enforcement training and wants to put a stop to the division he said exists between the citizens and law enforcement. He said he wants to build programs for the youth.
"If a youth group wants to use a gym or sports facility, they have to pay for it," he said. "That’s ridiculous as the people are already paying significant taxes for those same facilities. That needs to stop."
Dudley is a man of few words but his mission was clear. He said he wants to return control of the LCSO back to the citizens and away from political influence.
Steve Sikes (D)
Sikes is the incumbent, first elected in 2010’s special election after former sheriff J. Don Martin died.
"Well done is better than well said," Sikes said, quoting Benjamin Franklin.
He said he was honored to be elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2012. He said he is a servant to the community, much like his dad, Bobby Sikes, and grandfather, Paul H Sikes, were when they both served as sheriffs for the county.
Sikes said since his first year in office he’s implemented several programs to benefit citizens.
Sikes said he started implementing programs to ensure the safety of those in need by bringing Operation Project Lifesaver into the county. The program offers tracking bracelets to people with Alzheimers and others who may become disoriented away from their homes. Since then, Sikes said, he helped bring the program to Fort Stewart and some neighboring counties.
He said he also assigned a part-time deputy to the FBI Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which monitors child abuse, sexual exploitation cases and youth gang violence activities. He collaborated with school resource officers and educators to reduce bullying among students. He said he recently established a safety zone area by the Liberty County jail, giving citizens a safe place to meet and conduct business and child custody exchanges. He implemented a citizens academy, allowing the residents to learn about the operations of the deputies of the department. In order to increase visibility and reduce response time he established substations in Fleming and Midway.
He said his office puts the needs of citizens first, often donating entire holiday meals to hundreds of families in need.
"And my door is always open," he said advocating what he calls community policing and partnership. "I need the citizens of this county to keep us informed of what is happening so we can look into every complaint and resolve the issues."
Sikes said the office command staff and road patrol personnel are more diversified today than ever.
He said he is committed to reducing the rate of recidivism and worked with state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, in developing what is now the Liberty County Re-entry Coalition. The fledgling program, which helps convicts getting out of prison, is about to open its office within a month.
Fiscally, Sikes said he has worked with the Liberty County Board of Commissioners staying below budget by more than $2 million since 2010.
And he said he has collaborated with local agencies forming joint task forces sharing information to improve case work and increase arrests in order to reduce crime.