The race for sheriff of Lumpkin County will be decided in next month’s Republican primary, with incumbent one-term Sheriff Mark McClure facing opposition from Dahlonega city marshal and longtime sheriff’s employee Stacy Jarrard.
McClure, who spent 18 of his 23 years in law enforcement as a GBI agent, unseated three-term Lumpkin County Sheriff Jimmy Berry in 2004 and now faces opposition from a former employee who left the agency in late 2006.
McClure says he doesn’t fault Jarrard, a law enforcement veteran of 20 years, for challenging him.
"It’s what I did," McClure said.
Here’s a look at both candidates, in alphabetical order, in what may be the top voter draw in Lumpkin County’s July 15 primary:
Jarrard started his law enforcement career straight out of high school as a dispatcher/jailer for the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office and touts experience in the agency that runs the gamut, from patrol sergeant and budget manager to narcotics and homicide investigator. He’s also been heavily involved in the agency’s Drug Awareness Resistance Education program and worked as a regional supervisor for some 80 DARE officers statewide.
"I’ve hit every category in the sheriff’s department, and I know the workings of the department inside and out," Jarrard said. "I’ve been a servant for 20 years, and it’s been an enjoyable 20 years."
Jarrard said he wants to bring "more open-mindedness" to the sheriff’s office and vows to have an "open-door policy."
"The key to solving crime is listening to the people," he said. "I want to bring the office of the sheriff back to the community."
Jarrard said if elected he would shake up the agency’s administration.
"I feel there’s room for improvement at the management level," he said. "I want to surround myself with more professional management."
He believes the current sheriff has "tunnel vision" when it comes to drug enforcement.
"You cannot forget the other crimes, as far as the thefts, the burglaries, the crimes against persons," he said.
Getting the office certified by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies is on Jarrard’s list of priorities.
He also wants to increase the number of inmates from other counties housed at the county jail in order to bring revenue into the general fund.
Jarrard said he would expand the current three-zone patrol area to five zones to shorten response times and would cross-train patrol deputies to work property crime investigations through a new burglary suppression unit. He also wants to have POST-certified jailers trained to perform patrol duties when called upon.
"I want to utilize all the employees to the best of their abilities," he said.
Jarrard disagrees with McClure’s decision to not teach DARE in high school. The current sheriff instead has what he calls a "reality-based" drug education program in high school that relies on the testimonials of recovering addicts.
"That’s one thing that DARE strongly discourages," Jarrard said. "It hasn’t been researched. It’s nothing that has been proven to work."
Jarrard said if elected, he would take the time to teach DARE in high school himself.
Jarrard says his current job as city marshal has helped him learn the law enforcement needs of Dahlonega.
"Anyone who knows me knows I’m someone who will listen to their problems and I’m here for them," Jarrard said. "I think the citizens of the community are ready to bring the sheriff’s department back to the people."
McClure said he’s seeking re-election for his children and the community at large, "trying to keep Dahlonega and Lumpkin County a great place to live, a great place to raise children and a great place to retire."
The incumbent said he drew from his experiences in the GBI working with other law enforcement agencies "to find what other departments do right and bring that to Lumpkin County."
McClure said he also learned from his varied duties in the agency, including his role in the passage of state legislation that reduced the number of clandestine meth labs in Georgia by 75 percent. He also worked race riots, helped prepare for security at the G8 summit and was part of the Olympic Park bombing investigation.
McClure said a multi-faceted focus on drugs during his first term has led to a marked decrease in property crimes.
"The harder you work the drug problem, the lower your property crime, and that’s something we’ve hung our hat on and tried to work aggressively," he said. "We’ve looked at the drug problem from all angles: enforcement, education and rehabilitation."
McClure is a proponent of the circuit’s felony drug court and meets with the panel each week to go over possible new candidates for the rehabilitation-focused accountability court.
The sheriff said he wants to create a work-release program so that certain nonviolent inmates can pay restitution to their victims, provided it’s done in a safe and secure manner. He said housing outside inmates in the county jail has become a challenge since other jails, including a much larger facility in Hall County, began competing for inmates.
McClure believes the DARE program is ineffective in high school and prefers that teenagers see the effects of drugs from those who have lived the life and lost much as a result.
"Just telling a high schooler to ‘just say no’, does not work," McClure said.
McClure has his office working to earn state certification and said national accreditation would be the next step.
He said he wants to expand the community policing philosophy he began in his first term with more neighborhood watches and close-contact patrols.
McClure said unlike his opponent, "I’ve done the job for the past four years, and the job is not what it used to be."
McClure said the job of overseeing 82 employees and a budget of $4.8 million "is somewhat similar to being the CEO of medium-sized business."
"It’s all about management and supervision and appointing the people with the right experience to leadership positions," he said. "That’s something I offer, as opposed to reverting back to the good ol’ boy system of the past.
"Change is not a change forward if we’re only going back to the way we used to do it 10 or 12 years ago."