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Re-elect Sheriff Clay Whittle

Posted: Sunday, July 18, 2004


Clay Whittle


Voters have heard lots of numbers thrown around in this year's race for Columbia County sheriff. But these are the numbers that really matter: During Sheriff Clay Whittle's tenure, Columbia County's population has grown 17.5 percent, while the crime rate has fallen 26 percent.

More people. Less crime. That's reason enough to keep Whittle in charge -- but there are plenty more.

Since his election in 1995, Whittle has worked hard to build an administratively strong, fiscally responsible and publicly accountable law enforcement agency to protect our community.

Questions about his budget? Ask Columbia County's Board of Commissioners. Each year they review and approve every penny for the sheriff's office.

The money has been spent wisely to build a first-class law enforcement agency. But don't take our word for it: After an exhaustive evaluation by outside law enforcement professionals, Whittle's agency was one of the first in Georgia to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies.

This isn't just a meaningless plaque on a wall. CALEA certification means Whittle was willing to put his people under a microscope.

The law enforcement experience of Whittle's opponent, Lewis Blanchard, does not survive even a mild review. He is a charming young man, and he has assembled one of the area's slickest political machines. But the agency Whittle and his staff have built on Columbia County's behalf is far too important to turn over to a wealthy rookie with a nice smile.

It's all about experience and sacrifice. Sheriff Whittle became a Richmond County deputy in 1979, then worked three years in security at Savannah River Site. He came to Columbia County under Sheriff Tom Whitfield in 1984, worked his way through the ranks to become chief deputy and won a special election after Sheriff Otis Hensley's death. In the nine years since, his dedication and hard work have established high expectations for the community-oriented agency.

His opponent? After bouncing around jobs as a volunteer deputy, beach-patrol worker and school resource officer, Blanchard quit trying to break into the low-paying, entry-level ranks of police work. He spent the next seven years running bars and selling Masters tickets, and finally found something he was good at. It allowed him to build a personal fortune that he is using to buy his way into management in a career he long ago decided he wasn't willing to work at.

Amazing. Under the high personnel standards of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, Lewis Blanchard does not meet the minimum qualifications to be hired as a road-patrol deputy. Yet he is asking voters to hand him the keys to the agency's executive office. But experience, like wisdom, can't be bought; it must be earned.

We hope voters have the wisdom to see that Sheriff Clay Whittle has earned his experience, and that it has been to Columbia County's benefit. He has earned the support of Columbia County voters in Tuesday's election.


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