Longtime Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle announced today that he will not seek re-election when his term ends in December 2016.
Ive fought the battle so long, Im tired, Carlisle said, and Im ready to do something different, something completely outside of law enforcement.
First elected sheriff in 1996, Carlisle took office Jan. 1, 1997. Prior to his election, he worked for the sheriffs department, starting in 1985.
Carlisle said that after nearly 20 years as sheriff, one unsolved case still haunts him -- the murder of 11-year-old Levi Frady in October 1997, nine months after he took office.
I strongly believe it was somebody Levi knew and trusted, he said. Thats what my gut tells me. You go back and look and maybe some people didnt tell us everything they knew because they were afraid that they might be next.
Frady was allegedly abducted while riding his bicycle near his Forsyth County home on Oct. 22, 1997. His body was found by hunters the next day in a remote area of Dawson Forest. He had been shot three times, according to news reports.
Whoever did it has been real tight-lipped about it, Carlisle said. Im not so sure that whoever killed Levi is still living today.
Carlisle said he has no other regrets.
Ive made some bad decisions, and made some people mad, but I dont have any regrets, he said.
While only one person has formally told Carlisle he plans to run, he said three others are likely to enter the race.
Jeff Perry, a longtime Dawson County resident and parole chief for eight Georgia counties, including Dawson and Gilmer, met with Carlisle Monday, Oct. 13.
Other potential candidates are sheriffs department employees Capt. Tony Wooten, Maj. Jeff Johnson, and former department veteran Frank Sosebee, who currently works at the Hall County Correctional Institution, according to Carlisle.
Carlisle named several attributes a person must have in order to be a successful sheriff.
I read a book once by a well-known senator who said, Dont ever forget where you came from, Carlisle said. That sentence has stayed in my mind all these years. No matter who I think I am, or what I think Ive accomplished, I always remember where I started.
And Carlisle started with very little in 1997.
We had three officers and one car, he said, and that car was a piece of trash. Two guys would go out on patrol and one would sit at the jail.
Other qualities a good sheriff needs is being humble, doing whats right, and being honest.
Dont be afraid to say youre wrong, or you made a mistake, he said, because nobodys perfect. You gotta be willing to step up and say you made a mistake, and heres what Im going to do to correct it. Be honest with the public and be honest with the media. You dont want to hide anything.
Carlisle also said anyone running for sheriff needs to put the departments employees first.
Anybody can run and win if he gets enough votes, but what makes your sheriffs department is your employees, he said. If the employees enjoy working for you, and they enjoy their job, theyre going to take care of you and the county.
But there are employees who will also challenge you.
Ive had to fire some, and Ive had to arrest some, he said. And when I hired them, I said, Look, you read and you learn my policies, and you followmy policies, and you follow the law, then Ill stick beside you 100 percent. But if you go outside the law, or outside my policies, youre on your own two feet.
Another factor that influenced Carlisles decision to not seek re-election was his wife, Cathy.
Shes been teaching 30 years, and she plans to retire in 2016, he said. Whatever we decide to do after retirement, we plan to do it together, and Im really look forward to that.