COVINGTON - Newton County Sheriff's Office Lt. Ezell Brown has been with the department for 31 years and is making his second bid to be sheriff of Newton County.
"When I started here, everybody knew everybody," he recalled. "Sixty percent of the roads were dirt and we had three officers patrolling - one in the north, one in the south and one floating from east to west."
He said he made it a point in those days to stop and ask citizens he would see working in their yard or plowing fields how things were going in their community. He wants to impress upon deputies who are now patrolling Newton County's roadways the need to have the same interaction with the community.
"We must be dedicated. We must serve with honor. We must serve with courage, and we must serve with integrity," he said.
Brown said he wanted to unite the county so that whether living in the east or west, all citizens will have a better place to live. He cited the western portion of the county as having some high crime areas and he said he would be willing to make some "unpopular decisions," and fight crime where he finds it.
He said his approach to the office of sheriff would be to do what needs to be done to make the community a safe place to live.
"I am going to be a servant, and if I have to make unpopular decisions to do some things that have to be done to make Newton County better and safer, then that's my goal," he said.
Questions and answers from the candidate:
What is your philosophy of law enforcement?
Brown said he is a proponent of community policing and said he believes it is important to include residents in the business of law enforcement.
"We cannot do it all by ourselves. We have to bridge the gap between law enforcement, the community, civic groups and other organizations to ... create a nucleus where we will all be striving for that one common goal. So often we (in law enforcement) have tried to stand alone in perfecting what we do, but we need to learn and realize that it takes the entire community in order to move forward."
Brown said he wanted to make each citizen a "stakeholder" and plans to be involved in the community. He pledges that it won't be unusual for citizens to see him working in the jail, working wrecks or going on calls involving domestic problems.
Why do you want to be sheriff and what will be your priorities?
"I have 35 years of service in law enforcement and I pledge to make Newton County a place where citizens can be proud to live," he said.
Brown said his first priority will be to find someone to fill the position of chief deputy, hopefully filling the position from within the ranks of the sheriff's office personnel.
He said the next thing he will do is to create a command staff.
"We would look at each individual officer so we could maximize the best from each officer, hoping we can form what I would call alliances with the community ... that we could address every need of the community."
He wants to create an enhanced Neighborhood Watch program with himself or other NCSO personnel attending every meeting and encouraging membership among all segments of the community.
He also said he envisions hiring a grant writer for the sheriff's office and creating specialized teams to fight the gang and drug problem.
What will be your biggest challenge?
Brown said he saw crimes against persons and property as a challenge, as well as calming "the fears of the youngest and oldest citizens of the county."
He said his platform is based on what he calls the Big Three: drugs, sex and violence, and he hopes to win over the community at large in helping to stop crime, which he said would be "a dynamic step in making this place the best county in which to live."
What have people told you is their most pressing law enforcement concern?
Brown said the most common thread among those he's talked to has been a desire for accessibility, and it is his desire to have a "straight line of communication" between the community and the sheriff.
"I have always made myself available. I've had a published number in the phone book from day one of entering law enforcement because I've always wanted those with a concern to be able to contact me."
How will you combat illegal drugs?
He said he would continue support of the joint Covington/Newton County Special Investigations Unit and would build upon it.
"We've got to come up with creative ideas when we talk about intervention and prevention," he said, adding that he would like to call upon the resources of the Department of Family and Children's Services, health care providers and the religious community and have his department form an alliance with each one.
How will you ensure school safety?
Brown said he would depend on the school resource officers assigned to each school to keep him apprised of activity in the schools.
"We would advocate parental involvement in the schools, and we would look at partnering with recreation to try to get young teens involved in doing positive things so we can get them away from the streets," he said.
He said he wanted to continue drug awareness programs in the schools, but felt efforts needed to go beyond that.
"We have to involve prevention and intervention ideas and work with the school system hand-in-hand," he said, adding that it is key that parents become involved in the effort so that problems are curtailed before ever becoming a law enforcement matter.
What would you say to voters to convince them to vote for you?
"No matter what challenges we face in the future, I can assure the citizens of Newton County that the quality of life we now enjoy will be protected by the men and women of the Newton County Sheriff's Office, and we will do that through dedication, honor, courage and integrity.
Recalling his days as a 4-H'er, Brown said he liked to think about their motto of using head, hands, heart and health.
"I have the head with knowledge; a heart of compassion; hands that have worked here tirelessly; and I pledge the health of this department will stay intact."
He said citizens needed to look to the strongest candidate because tough decisions needed to be made due to the growth of the county.
SideBar: The Brown file
Occupation: A lieutenant with the Newton County Sheriff's Office, where he has served for 31 years, currently in charge of the sex offender registry, a program he has expanded in the last three years to include a Web site and a mapping system.
Personal: Born and raised in Blakely; moved to Newton County in 1973 when he began his law enforcement career with the Covington Police Department; married and the father of three children and several grandchildren. His wife retired from her job to care for one of their grandchildren. The family attends Bethlehem Baptist Church where Brown is a deacon, serves on the Deacon Board, is financial officer for the church, manages the building and grounds and sings in several musical groups.
Education: Graduate of Washington High School in Blakely; attended Albany Tech, North Georgia Police Academy, Columbus State University's professional management course, is a dual-certified arson investigator and has logged more than 2,000 hours of training related to law enforcement.