Returning from Pakistan
A long-serving deputy and spokesman for the Hall County Sheriff's Office formally acknowledged Friday that he plans to run for sheriff in 2012.
Col. Jeff Strickland, who is chief deputy, published a press release announcing his candidacy and advertising a reception being held Tuesday in his honor at the Georgia Mountains Center in Gainesville.
Strickland, 46, said his decision hinged on Sheriff Steve Cronic, who told the Hall County Republican Forum on Feb. 12 that he would not seek re-election.
Strickland has said he will run as a Republican.
"Hall County has a long tradition of excellent law enforcement leaders, and I'd like to continue to build upon the foundation that Sheriff Cronic and I have started," he said.
Strickland's announcement Friday called into question policies that outline political behavior for county and sheriff's office employees.
One of those that relates to Strickland was changed on March 31, he acknowledged.
The phrase "unless authorized by the sheriff" was added to a sheriff's office policy that otherwise prohibits employees from running for elected office or holding elected office in Hall County. The sheriff himself is exempt.
Furthermore, Hall County's regulations strictly forbidding any and all political activity outside of voting for most employees — unless they take a leave of absence — do not apply to him.
The attorney firm of Holland & Knight of Atlanta, which is currently acting as Hall County attorney, reviewed civil service guidelines and determined Strickland was not covered under those provisions.
"I would not be in violation of that policy," Strickland said, referencing what attorneys had told him. "I am a contract employee and work at the pleasure of the sheriff."
The sheriff's office policy change came 11 days after the ruling by the attorneys on March 20, Strickland said.
He anticipates remaining in his current role at the sheriff's office until next April, when he formally qualifies as a candidate.
"I plan on continuing with the sheriff's office until qualifying, and then I'll take a leave of absence," he said.
A 28-year veteran, Strickland served under the past three sheriffs, rising from jailer to chief deputy under Cronic, who has held the office the past 10 years.
Strickland said it has become more difficult to lead law enforcement agencies during the economic downturn, with the department losing 48,000 man hours to furloughs. Gangs, drugs and immigration will continue to be the top issues faced by the department, he said.
A website advertising Strickland's campaign, stricklandforsheriff.com, relates the candidate's long history with the Hall office.
Launched last week, the telephone number appearing at the bottom of the home page was the general line for the sheriff's office, at first. Strickland blamed the Web administrator for that mistake.
He said he did not know of any instance of administrative staff handling political calls during the week the office number was posted.
"They put that number on there in error," Strickland said. "As soon as I saw the mistake, I had that changed."