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Whittle recommended; Blanchard unqualified

Posted: Sunday, July 18, 2004

Making a decision on the sheriff's race is materially different than just about any other local vote we will make. We can quickly review the process that every major municipality which appoints a chief law enforcement Official elects to follow. They will seek years of executive law enforcement experience, demonstrated ethics, solid character, sound judgment and proven leadership within the field of law enforcement.

Clearly, Sheriff Clay Whittle exceeds the above. He has led the Columbia County Sheriff's Office to one of national prominence and accreditation. This transition to the premiere law enforcement organization in the Southeast has been done without a challenge to his ethics or department controversy. The standards of conduct are high and demanding. One needs only to look at the team he has surrounded himself with, from the finest command staff to the front line deputy I see in my neighborhood on a regular basis. As a home owner concerned about crime and community standards, I like what I see.

Lewis Blanchard is a nice guy, good speaker and strong marketer. He has been very successful in the bar business and reselling sporting event tickets. I would not diminish his success in that area for a second. However, one key question I have is, Did Lewis sell Masters Badges when it was illegal to do so in Georgia? Within his answer lies the placement of where his values reside, Money or adherence to the law. A sheriff cannot pick and choose the laws he or she desires to enforce or follow.

Another area of significant concern is his relationship to the bar business. A background of managing happy hours at a few Richmond County bars does not transfer to those needed to be the chief law enforcement officer of Columbia County. It is a grossly mismatched skill set. Blanchard previously served in what I would define as an entry level law enforcement position and he elected to depart that career and soon transitioned to the bar business. There are historical reasons why the state of Georgia separates the bar business from one choosing to work in law enforcement. If someone is committed to the provision of quality law enforcement the normal career path does not lead toward, through or around the bar business regardless how campaign consultants desire to spin it.

As a former bureau commander I worked closely with the sheriff. I've seen the ethics by which he operates that agency and it is exemplary. I've witnessed the pressure of the position without any waiver of character. Simply stated, I know both individuals and Lewis Blanchard is not qualified to be sheriff of Columbia County. Therefore, it is a pleasure to voice support for Sheriff Clay Whittle and the 90-plus percent of the agency employees who support his re-election.

Michael Tomberlin



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