After 40-plus years in law enforcement — with nearly 20 of those years as Liberty County’s chief deputy — Keith Moran is preparing for retirement, leaving Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes with the tough task of finding a suitable replacement.
“I thought who in the world am I going to get to replace Chief Moran?” Sikes said. “I have some good men in good positions throughout this department. I prayed and I prayed and asked the good Lord to lead me. I finally got the man that I thought the Lord was showing me from day one.”
And with those words, Sikes welcomed the department’s new chief deputy, Jon Long, during a Tuesday morning ceremony at the justice center.
“Jon, it is my pleasure to promote you to chief,” Sikes said.
Long has a long history of law-enforcement service, having started his career fresh out of high school.
“My first real job out of high school was over at the jail working for (then) Sheriff Bobby Sikes, and I have great memories there, and my dad was a sheriff deputy for a long time so this is like coming home,” Long said.
The incoming chief deputy said he worked as a dispatcher and did jail administration work for about three and a half years under the former Sheriff Sikes.
“Shortly after that, I went to work for the Georgia State Patrol and did 32 years there, retiring as a captain,” Long said.” People do know me, and I know my way around the community. This is home. I was born and raised here, so it’s definitely an honor to come aboard.”
Long came out of retirement and has worked closely with Moran since July to ensure a smooth transition in January.
Moran said it is a tough position, requiring someone who is open-minded, fair, organizational but still firm and decisive when it comes to doing what is best for the department and personnel.
“This is a busy job. It’s kind of law-enforcement and manager-administrator position and we sometimes refer to it as organized chaos; others call it ‘crisis management,’” he said. “It’s all about where do you need (people, equipment), what do you need next and, as you get more experience, it becomes about how can we do it better. We call it the crystal-ball theory in that we have to predict what might go wrong first and fix it before it goes wrong. That is what Jon is going to have to do, and he is very qualified to do that.”
In addition to his many years of law-enforcement experience, Long has a strong business and organizational background, having served as chairman of the Liberty County Hospital Authority. Moran said all those qualifications will help him in serving the LCSO.
“In conjunction with Sheriff Sikes and Chief Deputy Moran, we’ve had a lot of discussions about where the department needs to go,” Long said. “We don’t expect any major changes but, as with any department, there is always room for improvement and fine tuning. The ground work has already been laid since Sheriff Sikes came onboard. He is doing a great job as far as I’m concerned, and we just plan to take it to another level.”
Moran said LCSO deputies can rest assured that Long will handle the task and provide an open environment for dialogue, growth and concerns.
“He is going to take care of them,” Moran said.
“I want to thank Keith for being a great mentor,” Long said. “We’ve been friends for a long time and I really respect him and appreciate him … and I feel very fortunate to be able to move in and get my feet wet before he got going because he has a vast wealth of knowledge.”
Moran plans to be available to the department as needed after his January retirement and will take a week off before he starts teaching at Armstrong Atlantic State University’s Liberty campus. He said he also has plans for a trip across the states on his Harley and will work in plenty of rounds of golf.
The Courier is planning an in-depth look at Moran’s career in an upcoming edition. Moran also will share some of his more memorable experiences in a video clip.