Often, elections are about the incumbent, whether he or she is performing the job to which they were first chosen.
Apparently, Effingham County voters believe in Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie.
The six-year sheriff won in resounding fashion over challenger Rick Gossett, the police chief of Bloomingdale and a former co-worker of McDuffie’s at the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office.
And McDuffie’s victory was not only complete in the number of votes but also in the broad base of support. He took all but two of the county’s far-flung precincts.
Gossett’s resume and accomplishments were certainly impressive, and he campaigned on the strength of those and on changes he would make to the department. McDuffie, meanwhile, trumpeted the successful effort to eradicate meth dealers and makers from the county and his desire to keep moving forward with the department.
But McDuffie is also known as a sheriff who was at the neighborhood along Ebenezer Road that was torn apart by a tornado minutes after the storm blew through. He called Statesboro contractor Ellis Wood to come in with his crew of heavy duty equipment to help clean up the storm ravaged area.
It’s that kind of attention that endears McDuffie to his supporters.
By his own admission, McDuffie acknowledges the department isn’t perfect. The turnover rate the last few years has been astronomical. McDuffie sacrificed a handful of open positions in order to raise the base pay for deputies. He wants to be able to eventually add those positions back into the budget and he wants to establish a traffic unit, which is sorely needed along Effingham’s roads.
He also has pledged to make some improvements in the operation of the department. Another goal he has in mind won’t be easy to achieve but could be very helpful — expanding the filled-to-the-rim jail for a work release barracks, allowing offenders of minor crimes to be able to go to work, support their families and pay off their fines and fees before returning to complete their sentence on nights and weekends apart from the general population.
Both candidates campaigned on a starting a citizens’ advisory board and McDuffie said he wants to start one in August.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a number of years,” he said. “When you’ve got your community together with your law enforcement, you’ve got a heckuva team.”
The sheriff also wants to begin the “R U OK” program that places phone calls at predetermined times to elderly residents. Some elderly citizens even use the calls as reminders to take medications. If the calls are not answered by the third time, an automatic signal is sent to dispatch units to that location.
“We have a number of elderly folks in the county who live by themselves,” McDuffie said.
Soon, he said, he wants to set the record straight about some of the things that have been said about the sheriff’s department.
Effingham voters showed their faith in McDuffie in a big way last week. We trust that McDuffie will repay the trust placed in him by Effingham County citizens by following through on his plans for an even better sheriff’s department.