The race for the sheriff's office heated up with the addition of another Republican candidate Thursday, bringing the total number of candidates to six.
Chris Cowan, a sergeant with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office and eight year resident of Newton County, met with donors this week and released a statement declaring his candidacy Thursday after qualifying with the county's Republican Party.
Cowan previously ran as a Republican in the 2004 primary against incumbent Newton County Sheriff Joe Nichols, receiving 16 percent of the primary vote, or 1,123 votes.
The 38-year-old said he first decided to run for sheriff because he felt a change was needed.
"Sheriff Nichols has done a great job and I'm looking forward to pushing forward a bit further and making it stand out," he said. "A difference in thinking, a different pattern altogether - that would be good for the county."
He pointed out the growth of the county in the last decade has outpaced the number of deputies on the road. Some of his priorities would be to put more patrol deputies on the road and to earn accreditation.
Cowan, an 18-year veteran of the DCSO, is the only candidate not currently working at a Newton County law enforcement agency. He said his experience working in a larger metropolitan community, including 15 years on the road as a patrol deputy before his latest position as shift supervisor at the DeKalb County jail, gives him an advantage.
"I'm pretty familiar with a larger crime scale and how neighborhoods can be affected by increases in crime," he said.
Some of his long-term goals include a strong anti-drug campaign and targeting the rising numbers of domestic violence incidents, an area which he specialized in for several years.
The recent disbanding of the East Metro Drug Enforcement Team came as a surprise, he said, especially since drugs are one of the biggest challenges faced by law enforcement.
"This cancer among our society needs to be dealt with swiftly and judiciously," he said.
Cowan also wants to address the growing number of juvenile crimes by putting resources into preventing the conditions that foster juvenile delinquency.
"By the time kids get to us, it's too late. Their decisions are made and it's too late to get in there and do anything," he said. He wants to get parents more involved and strengthen parental skills through adult education classes and other programs available in the county.
As a parent of six children, all enrolled in Newton County schools - two in high school and four in middle school, Cowan said he has a vested interest in the safety of the county.
"I live in this community," he said. "I see what happens everyday. On the west end where I live, I see more concern with regards to growth and traffic. There's just all kinds of things, even with things that go unreported. We're going to try to work on that."
Although he grew up in Gwinnett County near Stone Mountain, he fell in love with Newton County because of its hometown feel.
"There's an aura about (Newton County)," he said. "I fell in love with its charm. It's a great place to raise a family and a great place to live."
In his spare time, he works with youth groups at St. Pius X Church in Conyers and chairs the school council board at Veteran's Middle School.
In his previous attempt at running for sheriff, Cowan said he learned patience and understanding from meeting many different groups of people.
"Really listening to what people have to say is one of the most crucial things," he said. "I want to know what's important to them."
Also running in the Republican primary are Covington Police Department Chief Stacey Cotton, Newton County Sheriff's Office Lt. Bill Watterson and NCSO Capt. Marty Roberts. Lt. Ezell Brown and Lt. Gwen Hightower, both of the NCSO, have qualified for the Democratic primary.