Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown has announced that he plans to seek reelection as sheriff in the 2012 election.
Brown responded to questions by email Friday.
Why have you decided to run for sheriff again?
Four years ago, I asked the voters of Newton County a simple question, ‘What can Brown do for you?' As I walked from one neighborhood to the next, I declared that ‘A Vote for Ezell Brown Means You Are Looking For... An Accessible, Working Sheriff.'
On Nov. 4, 2007, the people of Newton County gave me their vote of confidence. In the months leading up to that historic election, I said that if elected, I would...
Bridge the gap between the Sheriff's Office and all members of the community to create collaborative "winning strategies" for maximizing prevention and intervention efforts;
Revitalize community watches and intergenerational approaches to "take back" our neighborhoods from gangs, sexual predators, and other perpetrators of crimes against person and property;
Open doors to better communication between the Sheriff's Office and other local, state, and federal agencies responsible for serving and protecting our citizens;
Win the war against the "big three - sex, drugs, and violence"; and establish Networking opportunities, engaging public and private sectors, aimed at keeping crime down and making Newton County safe for all its citizens, young and old alike.
Since taking the oath of office, I have taken advantage of every opportunity to live up to that campaign promise. Yes, I have been and continue to be an accessible, working sheriff. Have I accomplished everything that I set out to do? No, not yet! Have I faced challenges along the way? Of course. Am I committed to taking the Sheriff's Office to the next level on behalf of all of our citizens? By all means! I come before you today to share my intent to seek re-election to the Office of Sheriff. Why am I seeking office again? First and foremost, four years is not long enough to accomplish all the goals I have set for myself, the Sheriff's Office, and the citizens of Newton County.
What has been your biggest challenge the last four years? How do you think you've dealt with it?
The E-C-O-N-O-M-Y has been the greatest perpetrator faced during my first term as sheriff. Early in my administration, I found myself having to face 21 employees and their families with the news that they were being laid off. In the same breath, I had to stand before the remainder of our staff asking them to do more for and with less. This news came after furlough days were imposed by countywide budgetary cuts. We have had to strip down to the bare necessities in the midst of rising costs and increased need for our services. Seeing the faces of those fifth graders graduating from our CHAMPS Program, or senior citizens participating in our self-defense classes, or listening to the words of appreciation as we have led family funeral processionals, have been all the inspiration we need to do what we have been charged to do. These have been, as they say, ‘the best and worst of times.' In these lean times, department personnel have demonstrated their commitment to pull together, stand up, and serve and protect the citizens of this county. The men and women who go out everyday have earned my respect over and over again; and, it gives me great pleasure to lead them.
What do you think your biggest challenge will be if elected again?
In the words of John C. Maxwell, ‘Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.' I believe that budgetary issues will continue to present challenges to our county. We will find ourselves increasingly dependent on public/private collaborative efforts to ‘get the job done.' We know that we will not be able to fund services in the manner in which we did historically. Grant dollars are shrinking and the competition is becoming fiercer. However, we take pride in our growing capacity to acquire these dollars over the last few years. One of our challenges will be to identify non-traditional community-based strategies for "serving and protecting" at a level deemed appropriate for our citizens.
A large part of your last campaign was geared towards making the citizens shareholders and being transparent. Do you feel you've accomplished those goals?
Yes, we have established some and revitalized other neighborhood watches throughout the county. Officers are making quality of life contacts on a daily basis. We have worked closely with the media to keep citizens abreast of our activities. We have strengthened our relationship with the school system, having launched a successful CHAMPS Program in our elementary schools. We have graduated approximately 1,500 students annually. We have also initiated the Georgia Sheriffs' ‘It's Party Time' initiative for students in sixth to ninth grades. We've held forums, and have an open door policy at the law enforcement center. Project Lifesaver allows us to support yet another segment of our population. We can be found answering calls, and I still have a published phone number. For more information about the array of programs offered, I encourage readers to visit the Sheriff's Department's website.
The budget has been a big deal the last few years. How do you plan on tackling that should you be reelected?
We have always been able to stay within our budgetary guidelines on the law enforcement side. However, the corrections side of our budget is directly connected to external factors beyond our control. For example, we have estimated that we would house approximately 500 inmates per day; however, today, we have almost 700. Decreases in personnel have contributed to increased overtime costs. Over the past few years, we have been asked to house inmates with extreme health conditions. In fact, we now have an inmate whose health care could exceed a half million dollars over the next year. When we submit our budget line items to the county commissioners, neither of us can accurately predict the impact of rising costs.
What is your platform?
My platform for the 2012 Campaign will be shared during the official launch. The specific date for that launch has not yet been determined but will be held prior to qualifications. The platform will be centered around what we do everyday to make Newton County a safer and better place to call home, young and old alike.