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Sheriff hopefuls campaign at rally
Candidates Bobby Ryon and Mark Floyd listen as Jerald Burgess speaks. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
On the first day of autumn Thursday, five of seven candidates running for Liberty County Sheriff rallied before residents, family and friends at Sunbury Crab Company. Candidates and their supporters dined on fresh seafood and greeted voters with hearty handshakes as folks strolled in and out of the open air restaurant. Once the sun set and the full moon illuminated the water, candidates took the stage to deliver their campaign platforms.
Jerald Burgess, Mark Floyd, Bobby Ryon, Warren Waye and Steve Sikes each took the microphone in turn to tell voters why they are the best qualified person to fill the county’s top law enforcement position. Sheriff candidates Jimmie T. Jones of Riceboro and Quinton “Red” O’Neal did not attend the rally.
Burgess said one of the first things he would do if elected is purchase new vehicles for the sheriff’s department. Some of the vehicles LCSO deputies currently drive are in bad shape, he said.
On a more serious note, Burgess said one of the toughest law enforcement challenges he intends to meet is eradicating illegal drugs in Liberty County.
“I’m real down on crack cocaine,” he said. “It’s ruined so many families.”
Burgess said he can’t promise to get rid of all illegal drugs in the county, “But I can make it hard to get.”
Floyd said he too would work to rid Liberty County of illicit drugs, adding “You get rid of (drugs) you get rid of a lot of other crime.”
He told rally attendees he could protect the public on “a dime,” inferring he intends to be fiscally conservative. Floyd also promised not to use the sheriff’s office for personal gain.
“I will be every citizen’s sheriff,” he said.
Ryon said residents have told him they want more police presence in their neighborhoods.
“I think that we have the manpower to d o that today,” he said, emphasizing this can be accomplished without raising taxes.
Ryon suggested deputies, jailors and other law enforcement personnel be asked for their input on “how to do the job smarter.”  He would also search for grant money to help fund the department. However, he warned one must be careful of grants, as some require matches and others cannot be used for operational expenses.
“Let’s look at credentials,” Waye, a Brunswick police officer, said. Waye said he is the only candidate for sheriff who has a strong law enforcement background. He has about 14 years of law enforcement experience, he said, having served as a police lieutenant on Fort Stewart and as a Liberty County Sheriff’s deputy.
“The main thing is to change how we police,” he said. “Police officers have to be in the streets, they have to be in the neighborhoods.” Deputies must take a more hands-on and community-oriented approach, he said.
“We have to show presence … and not just be reactive,” Waye said.
It is time for the department to change the way it has been run for the past 30 years, he added.
Sikes began by extolling himself and the other candidates, saying “We’ve all run a clean race.”
He said he would not compromise his morals or “step on someone else’s shoulders” to acquire the sheriff’s office.
“That office belongs to all the citizens,” Sikes said. “It is the job of the sheriff to administer the will of the people.”
The father and grandfather has also stated in his campaign literature if elected he would work to “reduce crimes against children, such as child abuse, child sexual exploitation, assaults, drug use, gang violence, and work more closely with our board of education to effectively address bullying in schools and further improve school safety.”
The laid-back rally this week was the first of several such events scheduled.
The local chapter of the NAACP will host the first of two rallies for sheriff candidates from 6:30-9 p.m. Sept. 30 at Shuman Recreation Center in Hinesville.
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