SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - In some communities, voters have as much interest in local races as they do the presidential election. In Bulloch County, Sheriff Noel Brown faces opposition from a former deputy and co-worker.
This sheriff’s election pits first-term incumbent Brown against former department member Ray Rodriguez. The two squared off in a virtual forum Tuesday night.
Rodriguez, now a deputy in a neighboring county, says he’s hearing a tone of dissatisfaction from people.
“They say they feel a disconnect and they feel there’s a need for more diversity in the upper echelons of the agency,” Rodriquez said.
Brown says he’s hearing from people who like the changes he’s made, such as adding space at the sheriff’s complex to give more room to the jail facility.
“People want to be safe. They know we’re growing. They know we’re undermanned and have been for a long time,” Brown said.
The sheriff answered questions about staffing to say he’s tried to work with county commissioners to get more positions and funding.
“We’re looking at a county that truly needs 11 deputies per shift,” Brown said.
But Rodriquez called into question Brown’s management of current payroll with some ranked officers making large amounts of overtime to cover holes in the schedule. He sees property crime and gun violence as the biggest concerns.
“With growth comes more crime. If we don’t try to get ahead of it, it will get out of control,” Rodriquez said.
Brown countered that most crimes trace back to drug abuse. He also believes he’s made progress expanding the department the last four years.
“The biggest battle is that we didn’t grow and we’re now having to catch up and it can’t happen overnight,” Brown said.
There are two topics on which both agree. One, safety needs to be the top priority across the county and two, they both hope voters go to the polls on election day or before and let their voice be heard.