Capt. Tony Wooten on Monday announced his bid to be Dawson County's next sheriff.
Wooten, 37, currently serves as the agency's public information officer. He also supervises the county's community policing program and school resource officers.
"I've been approached for the last four years asking that when Sheriff [Billy] Carlisle steps down, if I'd consider running for sheriff," he said. "It's something I've prayed about for the last four years and I feel like this is something that I'm confident I should do."
Earlier this year, Carlisle said he would not seek re-election to a sixth term in 2016.
Wooten began his 17-year law enforcement career as a jailer in the Dawson County Detention Center. From there, he climbed the ranks and commanded all but one of the department's divisions.
"I started out at ground level and I think that's a story that helps other deputies that come onboard. That gives a lot of inspiration to other people, hopefully, that are starting out now to know that there's potential to work hard and work their way up," he said. "I've done everything in the sheriff's office that I can do. I know I'm ready for the next level."
Wooten said his experience, coupled with the relationships he's gained in the community would create a seamless transition into the office of sheriff.
"In today's age when most law enforcement jurisdictions are trying to develop relationships with communities, we're blessed that we already have one and I want to work to continue that," he said. "I already have a good relationship with the community and hope to improve that and continue to make Dawson County the best place to live, work and play."
Among his most proud accomplishments are the implementation of the elementary C.H.A.M.P.S program, which focuses on teaching children to make positive choices and creating children's drug-free curriculum that was later adopted by the Georgia Sheriff's Association.
He also kicked-off Shop with a Cop when the local Walmart opened several years ago. The program now serves nearly 100 local youth each Christmas.
"People know me and they know that they can trust me," he said. "I think I've shown that I care about the community. Anybody can make promises of what they are going to do when they get into office. I've delivered on what I said I'm going to do in Dawson County."
Running with the "Dedicated to Dawson" campaign slogan, Wooten said a look back on his work the last 17 years proves he's dedicated to the community.
"I love the statement, ‘the best indication of future behavior is past behavior,'" he said.
A member of New Life Church, where he serves as an elder and outreach director, Wooten is also active in the community.
He is a Rotarian in the Dawson County Rotary Club and a youth community coach even before his children were involved in sports.
Married for 10 years, he and his wife Jennifer Wooten, have three young children, Owen, 7, Luke, 5, and Brooks, who is three.
Wooten is the second candidate announcing intention to run for sheriff in next year's election.
Jeff Perry, 50, who currently serves as a chief parole officer with the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, also plans to run.
Both candidates are republicans.