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Sheriff candidates face questions
Liberty County sheriff candidates stand during an invocation given by chamber of commerce board Chairman Kevin Thomas on Wednesday during a political rally at the Shuman Center. About 50 people attended the event, including board of education and county commission members. - photo by Photo by Seraine Page
Four of the seven sheriff candidates took to the Shuman Center’s stage Wednesday evening for a public political forum sponsored by the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce.
Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones said organizers made every attempt to contact and invite all seven candidates to the rally. Warren Waye, Steve Sikes, Mark Floyd and Bobby Ryon attended. Audience members were given booklets containing the four candidates’ biographical information.
Jones asked the crowd of about 50 to stand for the pledge of allegiance. When organizers couldn’t find a flag, interim chamber director Leah Poole asked attendee Patricia Waye, who was wearing an American flag T-shirt, to come to the front of the auditorium.
The candidates each took a minute and a half for introductory speeches before the question-and-answer session began.
Liberty County Board of Education member Verdell Jones moderated the forum and asked questions from a list previously compiled by chamber members. All candidates drew numbers to determine the speaking order.
Waye, first up, said he believes the position needs to be filled by a person who has a law enforcement background.
“It is going take a person with a vision in law enforcement, not just a vision,” said Waye, who has 14 years of experience in the field.
Sikes said that as a longtime Liberty County resident, he knows the area well and understands the kind of person it takes to fill the sheriff’s post.
“What I feel like is best for this county is someone with honesty and integrity,” Sikes said.
Floyd, born and raised in Liberty County, appeared to be recovering from a cold and kept his answers brief. He said as a young man he had worked for the sheriff’s department in the 1970s and 1980s and witnessed things he didn’t believe to be right.
“I was very young then and I couldn’t do anything about it,” he said. “That’s why I seek this office and to make this county as safe as possible for citizens to live here.”  
The moderator stepped up to the microphone after the candidates spoke and launched into a series of different questions, posing a new one for each candidate to answer in 90 seconds or less.
None of the candidates had prepared in advanced for the questions and only two people---herself and Poole--- had seen the list of 32 questions beforehand, assured Jones.
Questions ranged from “Does law enforcement experience matter?” to “What is your policy for community complaints going to be?”
Audience members were also asked to write down any questions they had for the candidates to be asked after the chamber’s list had been exhausted.
The slips of paper were then given to Poole and the tax commissioner to mill over while the individuals’ answered chamber questions.
A five minute intermission broke up the time between the chamber members’ questions and the audience inquiries.
The biggest question from the audience seemed to be what the “main goal” the sheriff candidate would achieve once they took office and how the goal would be accomplished.
Waye stated that he needs help from the community in knowing what is going on at any given time.
“Without you telling us what is going on, without you informing us what’s happening in your area whether it’s Lake George, Riceboro, we need your help,” said Waye. “It is going to officers being retrained on how we want to run the department.”
Sikes echoed the question by saying “Number one goal? My number one goal is to implement a cohesive police department/sheriff’s department,” he said. “I would rather do some preventive policing rather than reactive policing and it is a matter of keeping statistics on where crimes are occurring.”
Floyd made the crowd chuckle with saying “Ya’ll probably like my answers because they’re short and to the point.”
He continued on and said his focus was on the children in Liberty County. “One of the biggest things I see out there is drugs in the neighborhoods where they play. I won’t stand up here and promise that I’ll do away with it, but I will promise you they’ll be hard to come by.”  
Ryon, the last candidate to answer questions each time, said he plans to get to know how the current sheriff’s department is run in order to better the system overall.
“I’ve got to believe that this is one of the first things all of us candidates have to do,” he said.
He also emphasized the need of after-school activities for students so they can stay out of the juvenile delinquent system. “My main goal is we have to get these youths going in the right direction.”
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