ZEBULON - When voters head to the polls July 15 to decide who will be Pike County’s Republican candidate for sheriff in November’s general election, they will find that the three choices - Albert Busbee, William Novin Darsey Jr. and incumbent Jimmy Thomas - all have one thing in common - experience.
“All I’ve ever done is law enforcement,” said Busbee, who started his career in law enforcement in 1972 as a deputy sheriff in Spalding County and retired in December 2007 as a supervisor in the traffic division of the Griffin Police Department.
Darsey brings to the race more than 20 years of law enforcement experience. The 1980 Griffin High School graduate began his career with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in 1980 and is currently captain of the special operations unit of the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, which includes the canine, aviation and narcotics divisions.
Darsey believes his experience can be a big boost for Pike County.
In addition to training with the Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force, Darsey is a graduate of the Drug Unit Commanders Academy and as a certified teacher on methamphetamine labs, he speaks regularly to schools and civic organizations on the subject.
Thomas is in his second term as Pike County sheriff. He became certified as a police officer in 1980 and worked a number of years as a firefighter and paramedic prior to being elected sheriff. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and has completed Leadership Pike, specialized training for sheriff, three levels of management at the University of Georgia, courses in crime scene processing and 120 hours of investigative training at the Georgia Public Safety Institute.
If elected sheriff, Busbee sees his biggest challenge in getting the Sheriff’s Office budget under control.
According to Busbee, the budget was just over $800,000 when Thomas took office and is now approximately $2.3 million.
“We’ve got to get out and get the service to the people of the county,” Busbee said. “We’re not doing that. We have 43 people in the department, but the service is the same as it was in 1981.”
Busbee says he wants to give residents the service they deserve and charges Thomas with providing “poor leadership.”
“He’s just sitting in idle and not really pushing the service to the community,” Busbee said. “You can expect me to have an open-door policy for the citizens of Pike. I want the public to always feel they can come to me. You can be confident I will control the budget and will be able to explain where your tax dollars are being spent.”
According to Thomas, budget expansion was necessary in order to build the department into what it needed to be. He says the department is now leveling off.
“There was so much we didn’t have, and, with the sudden burst of growth, we needed it,” he said.
During his tenure, Thomas has established four new divisions. They consist of civil and warrant, jail and courtroom security under one division. The remaining three are traffic and uniform patrol, office administration, and narcotics/school resource/investigations.
“We will continue to bring the professional service the county has grown accustomed to,” Thomas said, outlining a number of initiatives his department is looking into to deal with the rising cost of fuel.
They include going to a partial foot patrol when possible; turning off police vehicles when parked; getting oil changes every 5,000 miles versus 3,000 miles; pre-planning trips for duties like the serving of court-ordered papers; limiting mileage during shifts; and studying the use of alternatives such as hybrid vehicles.
Darsey, who has long family roots in the county, says he believes the answer to reducing the budget lies in restructuring the staff by eliminating some positions and combining others.