Surrounded by his family and a contingent of current and former Effingham County Sheriff’s Office employees, Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie announced his intention to seek re-election.
McDuffie will be running for his fourth full term in office, after he was appointed to the position in 2002.
McDuffie made his announcement Wednesday afternoon in front of the Historic Effingham Courthouse.
“The economy is changing, the county is growing, and I want to be a part of that continued growth,” he said. “We have several projects we want to see take off in the next four years.”
Among those efforts, the sheriff said, is the creation of a work release barracks at the jail.
“The old adage of ‘lock ‘em up and throw the key away’ doesn’t work anymore,” McDuffie said. “We have to look at other avenues to do things. I want to be part of helping keep families together in our great county.”
McDuffie has been with the ECSO for nearly 29 years, and the size of the force has grown since. In the last few years, McDuffie put a traffic enforcement unit on the roads and has tried to augment his personnel’s salaries.
“Several years ago, when I came here to Effingham in ’87, a lot of nights, I was there by myself, or it was me and one other guy in the whole county,” McDuffie said. “Now we’ve got seven folks on the street.”
The justice complex and the old courthouse restoration also meant the sheriff’s office had to provide more personnel for security at those two buildings.
“We’ve got a new judicial complex we’re having to oversee,” he said. “We’ve got our crime scene folks, our civil process, our criminal investigation division. We’ve had to expand out to keep up with the growth of the county. In law enforcement, we never have too many people to help out and do what we need to do.”
Investigator Joe Heath also brought attention to the ECSO for his work in tracking down potential child predators and those who are trafficking in child pornography.
“Fortunately, Joe being able to help out with the stuff he does throughout the nation helps us,” the sheriff said. “We have to look out after young people and we have to look out after our old people.”
McDuffie said the work release program, if the ECSO can get it going, will help those who are trying to pay off fines and debts remain employed, rather than having them placed in jail where they can’t earn wages that could go to restitution or child support.
“I pay taxes in this county as well. I think I need to be a good steward of the tax dollars and we have to maximize those dollars as much as possible,” McDuffie said. “If we get the work release program going, they can go out in the day, work and keep their job, come back to jail at night on the weekends. They can pay those fines and pay that child support and be in jail at the same time. That keeps them from losing their job, keeps them paying and being a productive part of society.”
The ECSO also is rotating its vehicle fleet, especially as the Ford Crown Victoria — long a staple of law enforcement agencies — is no longer in production. The ECSO still has several Crown Victorias in service, including some for patrol deputies.
“We’ve got a few we’ve still got on the street,” McDuffie said. “Some have 202,000 miles on them. The commissioners have been great in working with us in getting those cars off the road.”
The sheriff related a incident several months ago where a deputy, in a Crown Victoria, had his car slide across Highway 80 before he regained control and maneuvered it out of harm’s way. The car’s steering shaft had broken.
“It could have been bad,” McDuffie said.
Qualifying for county offices will be held March 7-11, beginning at 9 a.m. that Monday and ending at noon that Friday. Qualifying fees for sheriff are $2,270.25. General primaries and nonpartisan general elections will be held May 24.