CONYERS -- With some 20 years of law enforcement experience, Eric Levett said he'd long planned to run for sheriff of Rockdale County at some point, but the change in demographics in his home county made him decide the time to run is now.
"I set a goal many years ago that I wanted to run for sheriff," said Levett, who serves as a sergeant for the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office. "And after monitoring the numbers and seeing a dramatic change in Rockdale County, I decided to run sooner than later. So basically, I'm just pursuing my goal sooner than I originally anticipated."
Levett, a Democrat, will face Republican incumbent Sheriff Jeff Wigington in November's general election. In late July, Levett defeated Donald Ferguson in the Democratic Primary, carrying 57 percent of the vote.
While the demographic profile of the county has changed in the last several years, Levett said he wasn't centering his campaign on race, but rather on unity.
"We do have more Hispanics and blacks in Rockdale County and it's not really about race -- it's about who's going to get out here in the community and work with everyone and unite everyone," he said. "I'm a one-on-one type of man, a community man and a physical man, so I like to get out here and mingle with people, and I don't think our sheriff is doing that a whole lot. If he was, people wouldn't say, 'Who is the sheriff?'"
Levett, whose law enforcement dossier includes involvement with the sheriff's office's Explorer Program while still in high school, said he wants to make sensitivity and diversity a major plank in his public-safety platform.
"The main things I'm hearing while campaigning is deputies and employees being rude, and people seem to think that a lot of our deputies are profiling," he said. "I don't necessarily believe our deputies are doing any profiling, at the same time, I think it is something we need to monitor. That's one of the reasons why I want to make sure we increase our training in sensitivity and diversity.
"Another thing is, people just want to see a change. I'm hearing a lot of people saying the sheriff's position should be term-limited and that the sheriff has been in office long enough and it's time for a change."
Educated in the Rockdale County School System and currently pursuing a degree in criminal justice from Thomas University, Levett added that if elected he intends to resume holding town hall meetings in the community.
"My platform is safety, accountability and professionalism," he said. "The safety of the citizens and the safety of the deputies are my top priorities. As far as changes, I want to continue to use every available resource, improvement and technique to combat crime here.
"I want to hold town hall meets in various districts in the county. I think there are a large number of people who have said they'd attend town hall meetings. The sheriff said at one of the forums that it's been tried before and it didn't work. I believe because of the changes that have come to Rockdale County I can bring those folks together."
Levett also said that if elected, he'll install a chief deputy, and he believes he can achieve this change without straining the office's budget.
"I would like to bring a chief deputy on board, which I think provides good checks and balances," he said. "Most agencies have a chief deputy or an assistant chief or a colonel or a deputy chief. When you're out in training or are out sick, it's good to have a second-in-command. I'm not choosing a chief deputy to run the agency for me because I'm not capable of doing it; I'm choosing a chief deputy to make sure we're running a professional agency that brings good checks and balances."
He added that while he doesn't have Wigington's experience as sheriff, Wigington didn't have that seasoning when he was first elected either.
"I don't have the sheriff's experience, but no one who is elected as sheriff goes in with sheriff's experience," he said. "When elected, you attend a four-week sheriff's academy and then you begin serving in that capacity, which is where you gain your experience."
After graduating from high school, Levett began his law enforcement career as a communications officer at the Rockdale E-911 Center and he joined the RCSO as a detention deputy in 1993. Upon attending the Fulton County Police Academy, he was assigned to the Uniform Division in 1994, and he has also worked for the Stone Mountain Park Police Department, the Lake City Police Department and the Conyers Housing Authority. He's been back with the RCSO since 2002.
"I want the citizens to understand that I have a plan for the county to take them forward for the next four years and I'm not going in to cost them any more money," he said. "Their safety and the safety of the deputies are my priorities. And I hope they elect me as their next sheriff."
For more information, visit www.levettforsheriff.com.