Darrell Huckaby - Is change necessary in race for sheriff's office?

It's election season. As the Fourth of July approaches, things will really get cranked up. The summer primaries are scant days away and we all know what's coming in November.

Actually, none of us have a clue what is coming in November, but it could be earth shattering and world changing - but we need to remember that not all change is good, despite what some people would have us believe.

There is an old saying among national political pundits that says "all politics are local." The decisions we make on a national level will certainly have a dramatic effect on our lives sooner or later. We all know that, of course, even if we sometimes shove that little nugget of truth to the backs of our collective minds. We pay attention to the national and state races - particularly in a presidential election year - and may even slap a bumper sticker on our car or mail in a check to a candidate we have never met. Once in a great while we may display the ultimate symbol of political awareness - a yard sign - extolling the virtues of a presidential or senatorial candidate.

But we reserve the serious infighting for those truly local races; the ones who decide who our state house leaders and county commissioners and school board members will be. Go for a drive in any area of our community - or maybe you just go for a stroll; with gas pushing four bucks a gallon, who can afford to drive - and you will see brightly colored yard signs promoting men and women who want to serve and protect and help lead us into the dark and scary place that is our future. Or something like that.

And the local elections are certainly important. The people we elect in November will be making decisions that will have a direct impact on our daily lives - for better or for worse. It's funny in a way. I, personally, pay a lot more attention to the state and national scene when it comes to politics. I guess it comes from being a history teacher. I can tell you the bloody, gory details of just about every presidential election and can cite chapter and verse if you want to discuss, say, gubernatorial politics in Georgia since 1952 - but I have never been compelled to become personally involved in local races. And the local races, as I said, may have a bigger impact on me, in many ways, than the more glamorous ones that will bring the entire nation to their television screens in the fall.

I did see something regarding local politics, however, that caught my eye in this paper on Thursday. It seems that the League of Women Voters here in Rockdale County, where I reside, held a public forum for local candidates, including those running for sheriff. I must have been away from the phone when they called to invite me and I didn't catch the notice in the paper, but that is one event I would have loved to attend, because we all have a vested interest in who we elect to represent us as high sheriff.

The Founding Fathers had the foresight to infuse enough checks and balances into the U.S. Constitution to protect us from even the most misguided president, but we had better be particularly careful when we decide who gets the keys to the county jail. Vote for who you will when we pick the president, but you'd better think long and hard before you mark your ballot for sheriff.

The thing that caught my eye as I read the newspaper article about the forum were the promises made by two of the three candidates for sheriff. They both promised "change," according to the articles - seems to be a catch-word in certain circles for this year's elections. One even promised a "paradigm shift" in law enforcement. Honesty compels me to admit that I don't know exactly what a "paradigm shift" is - and I have a bunch of college degrees - but it sounds dangerous.

It sounds especially dangerous when you consider the fact that, again, according to the article I read, the two candidates for sheriff who won't have "incumbent" by their name on the ballot took "occasional jabs against each other's professional experience" during the forum but spent most of their time with their "sights squarely on the sitting sheriff."

Now here's the thing. The sitting sheriff is Jeff Wiginton, who was born and reared and educated and married here in Rockdale County. He raised his children here. I taught them. I know Jeff and his family and I know him to be a fine and decent man who has served this county with distinction and honor. He has built our county's law enforcement agency into a police force that is a model of community service whose virtues are extolled across the state and region.

The other two candidates may be fine and decent men, too - but the experience over which the two took "occasional jabs at one another" has come in Fulton and DeKalb County. Really now, y'all. Do we really want to bring Fulton and DeKalb County style law enforcement to Rockdale County?

Just think about that.

We'll make a big decision on Nov. 4. Circle your calendar now and be sure you cast your ballot.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.