Newton County Sheriff's Office Lt. Bill Watterson is officially pursuing his lifelong dream after announcing Friday afternoon that he intends to run for the position of Newton County's next sheriff.
"It is the sheriff's job to enforce the law, crack down on crime and protect our families," he said in a press release. "In choosing a new sheriff, experience matters. I have the experience necessary to get the job done."
Watterson was joined by his wife Yolonda and their two sons, McKenzie and Micah, as he officially kicked off his campaign outside the Newton County Law Enforcement Center.
"It really is all he has ever talked about," Yolonda Watterson said. "Since we have been married I've known it was a goal of his."
While running for sheriff may have been a life long professional goal, Watterson really began to consider actually running about five years ago. When he learned of Newton County Sheriff Joe Nichols' planned retirement, Watterson decided now was the time to finally follow his dream.
"Sheriff Nichols has done a great job of protecting our families. I hate to see him go, but I thank him for his service," Watterson said in a press release. "I'm running for sheriff to continue to fight crime and protect our families. Newton County is growing, and crime always tends to follow. There's nothing more important to me than protecting your family and mine, and that's exactly why I am running."
If elected sheriff, it would be just the third job for Watterson since high school. Before joining the NCSO 17 years ago, Watterson served in the U.S. Air Force. He now works as a field lieutenant in the criminal investigation division of the NCSO.
During his years of service with the NCSO, Watterson said he has worked in every department of the sheriff's office, a fact he believes would enhance his ability to be an effective sheriff.
Though he said the department was in great shape, there are several issues he promised to tackle if elected sheriff. Along with addressing a shortage of man power in the patrol and investigative divisions, Watterson said he would like to build a closer relationship with the community.
"I would definitely have more meetings with the community to find out what their concerns are and address them," Watterson said. "Anybody is welcome to approach me and address the issues that they have."
One area in the community he personally sees as a problem is the lack of communication between teenagers and the sheriff's department. Watterson said he believed a closer relationship with teenagers would lead to a decrease in the crime rate among that important age group.
"I want us to know these kids," Watterson said. "I want there to be trust between them and the department. Some programs aimed at teens might go a long way toward that."
The candidate has some other long term goals in mind for the county which would require help from not only the community, but also those in control of the purse strings. Because of the disproportionate amount of crime on the west side of Newton County, Watterson said the NCSO would ideally like to build a new precinct in that area so deputies could more efficiently handle the calls in the vicinity.
If the money were available, Watterson said he would also like to implement programs to keep residents aware of crime trends in their area. He noted several other agencies have developed a phone system where residence can sign up to have their cell phones called whenever there are alerts in their area. A Web site could also be developed fro a similar purpose, he said.
Watterson is the second republican sheriff's candidate to announce. Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton previously announced his intention to run as a republican in November, of 2007.
Republican voters will have to choose their candidate between April 28 at 9 a.m. and May 2 at noon. Whomever the voters choose will then move on to face the other parties' candidates on July 15.
The Watterson campaign will begin in earnest in February when he will host several fund raisers and meet-and-greets. Until then, residents are encouraged to call Watterson on his personal cell phone at (678) 859-2131 if they have any questions or concerns.
Voters will also soon be able to visit Watterson's Web sit VoteWatterson.com which should be up and running in a few days.