When I was a boy up in rural Tennessee I got really interested about the county sheriff.
Sheriff Colbert had a pretty daughter just about my age who was a cheerleader in my high school. She was in “luv,” but not with me.
She and her steady boyfriend broke up, so I went calling, and in those days custom required a boy to go in and get a talking to by the father before you went out with the daughter. And in this case the father was the high sheriff. I still remember the evening “chat” and I got her home for sure before the 11 p.m. curfew.
In Tennessee, like in most states, the sheriff is elected by the voters in the counties. If you look up the word it comes from the Saxon and it meant the reeve of the shire. He was the head surf responsible to the lord of the area to keep the peace and make sure that people did right by the lord. He was elected by the people.
Later the Normans changed the system and the sheriff was the king’s man with the power to enforce the king’s law.
Our system today in Georgia is more like the Saxon approach. The voters of the county elect the sheriff.
In most counties the position of sheriff long predates the position of county commissioner. The sheriff does not report to the commission. He answers to the laws of the state and to the voters.
The commission is obliged by law to provide the necessary funds by taxes to adequately fund the operations of the sheriff’s department. If the commission and the sheriff cannot come to agreement about this, superior court judges will step in with the power to make sure that money is provided.
As many are aware, the board of commissioners has been considering writing a noise ordinance. I have received a communication from the homeowner’s association, which states that it is the duty of the commissioners to write the law and it is the duty of the sheriff to enforce the law.
It is asserted that the sheriff should have no part in writing an ordinance. I take strong exception.
Sheriffs in Georgia have wide discretion about what they send their deputies out to do. They have to balance resources with the pressing needs of the day. I want them working on the most important things first. I will not vote for any ordinance, which the sheriff’s department has not reviewed and is in general agreement that it can be reasonably enforced. We should value and respect that professional judgment.
I think we have a good sheriff in Dawson County and I believe that the voters have chosen wisely. The relationship between the sheriff’s department and the board of commissioners is good and open and I want to keep it that way.
I never did get a second date with the Colbert girl, but her father knew my first name and when I took my friend, Robert, to the hospital when he shot himself in the leg practicing fast draws, the sheriff came to investigate the shooting and did not even call my daddy. He did say we were “silly igits,” which was about right.
Dawson County District 1 Commissioner