The Franklin County Citizen Leader presented each local candidate with a set of general questions ahead of Tuesday’s primary. Stories written from the answers provided have been published over the past few weeks. All of the stories are available, for free, at www.franklincountycitizen.com.
Andrews offers career experience
CARNESVILLE – Scott Andrews has a career worth of law enforcement experience as qualifications for the office of Franklin County Sheriff.
He also has a resume of community leadership posts and a family history of service as well.
Andrews is seeking the office of sheriff after retiring from the Georgia State Patrol.
“During my law enforcement career, I have worked in many facets of the job,” he said. “From correctional officer, deputy sheriff and a long career as a Georgia State Trooper.”
During his career, Andrews worked his way through the ranks to many leadership positions and attended several management/leadership training classes.
“As a post commander with GSP, I was responsible for a monthly budget for the operation of the patrol post. I was also responsible supervising troopers and patrol of three up to five different counties All this involved working with local leaders, sheriffs, chiefs, judges and sometimes, county and city commissioners. I feel that my experience in working with county administrators and being a full-time working sheriff will make Franklin County Sheriff’s Department the best in Northeast Georgia.”
A lifelong resident of Franklin County, Andrews graduated from Franklin County High School in 1985.
“My father and grandfather both served as sheriff of Franklin County,” he said.
Andrews is currently president of the Franklin County Cattleman’s Association, region vice president for the Georgia Cattleman’s Association and vice president of the Peace Officers Association of Georgia.
He is also a member of the Masonic Lodge of Lavonia and recently became a Shriner. He coached football at Franklin County High School for 16 years.
Andrews attends Word of Life Church in Carnesville.
The biggest challenge facing the sheriff’s office is “underpaid and overworked staff,” Andrews said.
“The officers are currently some of the lowest paid in the area,” he said. “This leads to officer retention problems. I will, within the budget, give them a much-needed pay increase. With this increase, there will be expectations for professionalism and a strong work ethic.”
Andrews said he will use state agencies to assist with investigations as well as work the interstate and investigate serious injury/fatality crashes.
The candidate also advocates for a work-release facility for inmates.
The facility “will not only save taxpayers money but will battle to reduce recidivism by providing the participant with a job/trade that can be maintained upon their release from custody,” he said. “This program will have a huge impact in reducing the budget as well.”
Andrews said the improvements he would implement include more training and pay for deputies and detention officers, inmate programs like work release and more long-term planning for the office to get the most out of the money allocated to the office.
“Also, more budget awareness and to make sure the sheriff’s office is accountable to the citizens of Franklin County for its expenditures,” he said.
Andrews apologized that due to the coronavirus pandemic that he won’t be able to speak to all voters in person.
“I will be a full-time, working sheriff for the people of Franklin County,” he said. “I appreciate everyone’s support. I am praying for the health and safety of all Franklin County residents and that you continue to take care of each other. I humbly ask for your prayers and support on June 9. Vote Scott Andrews for your sheriff, a vote for accountability.”
Sheriff seeks fifth term of service
CANON – Stevie Thomas says that every day, he is proud to serve as Franklin County Sheriff and his work “to continue to make this county better now and in the future.”
Thomas is seeking a fifth term as sheriff.
“I love Franklin County and serving my friends, neighbors, and all of its citizens,” he said. “I have always believed in my deputies and will continue to support them in their duties as they make our community and highways safe for our citizens.”
Thomas said his 16 years of experience in the job “Is a big plus for me.
“The sheriff’s position is very demanding and requires 24/7 dedication,” he said. “The sheriff is a servant to his citizens while serving and protecting as his first priority. In 2005, my first year elected as Sheriff I promised all citizens that I would be accessible to them. Today I continue to be accessible to all citizens. I have always listened to the citizens’ concerns and issues that are important. I have made every effort and used every possible resource to protect our children, not only at their homes, but at our schools. I have continued to enhance enforcement of our domestic violence laws, courtroom security, traffic safety enforcement and crimes of violence, especially those crimes involving our children and senior citizens. I have a proven leadership record and 40 years of law enforcement experience.”
Employee pay and ongoing issues at the Franklin County Jail are key challenges, Thomas said.
“To keep certified seasoned trained officer and keep them from leaving for surrounding counties for more money we must pay them to keep them,” he said. “When an officer leaves and he has built up time he has to get paid for that time. That puts a hole in the budget. You have to train someone else and after the police academy, there is an eight-week field training within the Sheriff’s Office.”
The challenges facing the jail are ongoing maintenance issues and overcrowding with no room to classify inmates, Thomas said.
Since the March 2002 term of the grand jury, each Jury has recommended that money be set aside for improvements and expansion at the jail. That means grand juries have recommended improvements 36 times, the sheriff said.
“The maintenance issues are hard to keep up with due to the age of the building,” he said. “As you know, as a building ages, the maintenance to keep it running effectively increases. When you factor in the inability to get parts for items to repair them, the problem compounds.”
The jail is rated for 72 inmates, Thomas said, but most often has more than 100 in custody.
“This means that we have to find places for these inmates to sleep,” he said. “This in itself creates more problems. We have to pay deputies (often paying overtime) to transport these inmates to the other facilities as well as picking them up for court appearances. We are also responsible for any medical and dental issues these inmates incur while they are in the other facilities, which means we must pick them up to bring them back to see the doctor or dentist. This takes these deputies away from our county where they should be protecting our citizens.”
Housing inmates in other counties is not free, the sheriff said.
“We must pay the county to house these inmates,” he said. “The cost is usually $40 per day per person. This is just for housing. This doesn’t cover anything but a bed and meals. All other expenses are still paid for by Franklin County.”
Because of overcrowding, inmates with serious charges are being housed with inmates that are charged with traffic offenses, Thomas said.
The sheriff said he would like to see the county agree to an expansion of the jail and remodeling some of the existing building.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought the need for the sheriff’s office to be prepared with a response plan to protect the community and deputies.
“COVID-19 brought many changes to all, including law enforcement,” Thomas said. “While front line officers were challenged with direct contact with the public, the Detention Center was challenged with inmate intakes and past contact history. Because of this, front line officers as well as the Detention Center is provided with adequate personal protective equipment.”
Thomas said changes can end up costing more money, so any adjustments must be more cost efficient and save taxpayers money.
One such idea is enhanced remote technology for court appearances using the internet.
“If established, the technology would reduce workforce hours, inmate transports and inmate housing for all courts,” Thomas said.
The office can also improve work flow through technology to reduce the cost of operations.
The sheriff said he wants to continue to improve protocols that benefit enforcement of child abuse, violent crimes, crimes against senior citizens, domestic violence and white collar crime.
Continuing to expand inmate work details is also a good idea because it benefits local communities, Thomas said.
“It has become a two-part process in which inmates can complete their community service as well as a cost effective program benefitting the citizens of Franklin County,” he said. “What started as a simple courthouse detail that included mowing the grass and weedeating the grounds, now has developed into a multifaceted program. Now the inmate work detail consists of approximately 16-20 inmates working at different venues within the county. They provide the following services within the county: mowing and weedeating all community centers, the courthouse, ballfields, the commissioners' office, probate court, magistrate court, the health department and the 911 center. We provide inmates for cleaning the courthouse, tax assessor's office, commissioners' office and both weigh stations on 1-85. The inmate work detail provides Inmates for the Franklin County landfill and also provides trash pickup for all county offices. The inmate work detail has also become involved with the school system in that we provide clean up services after sporting events (i.e. football games, basketball games, etc.). Most recently during the offseason when they weren't mowing grass, they have begun to walk county roads and pick up trash and debris along the roadways.”
Thomas said that he has spent his 16 years as sheriff “obtaining firsthand knowledge of the needs and concerns of the many diverse areas of Franklin County.
“I am truly dedicated to serving the people of Franklin County and believe each individual person should be, and has been, treated with respect,” he said. “As your sheriff, I have taken to heart your concerns and issues that are important to you. I believe that it is very important that your sheriff is a strong sheriff with experience, knowledge of his duties, and is able to work closely with surrounding sheriff’s offices, police departments, state agencies and federal agencies, as I have done for many years. Such professional relationships help investigators and deputies solve crimes quickly.”