THOMASVILLE — The Republican candidate for Thomas County sheriff and his chief deputy running mate did not decide to run for office on a whim or on the spur of the moment.
Sheriff candidate Joey Blackburn his choice for chief deputy Jabar Dunbar made the decision years ago.
"This is the year of change," Blackburn, who is challenging Democrat incumbent Carlton Powell, said. "You cannot move forward if you don't change."
The 55-year-old candidate said he was taught to respect authority, to help people in need and to expect nothing in return.
With years of experience in law enforcement, Blackburn has learned about crime victims' vulnerability.
"They (crime victims) feel you're the only one who can help them at that point," he said.
Blackburn began his law enforcement career with the Thomas County Sheriff's Office.
"Actually, I started out in the volunteer posse," he said.
After he was hired, Blackburn worked at the old Stevens Street jail before being assigned to sheriff's office road patrol. He later worked in narcotics, criminal investigations, crime scene investigation, returned to road patrol at the rank of sergeant and was later promoted to lieutenant.
After serving 15 years with the sheriff's office, Blackburn was in private business before joining Thomasville Police Department as a patrol officer. He later worked in police criminal investigations. He resigned in March to run for sheriff.
He is certified in a number of law enforcement areas, including general police instruction and was a member of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Blackburn and his wife, Kim, have three children. A member of First Newark Baptist Church, the Coolidge native is a son of Edward Blackburn and the late Trudy Blackburn.
A 1983 Thomas County Central High School graduate, the candidate earned an associate degree at Thomas University.
As a police detective, Blackburn investigated 90 percent of elder abuse cases, along with sexual assaults and homicides.
"I wanted to be more involved with the people part of it," he said.
Today's law enforcement work requires officers to communicate with each other and with victims and suspects, regardless of the law enforcement agencies involved, Blackburn said.
The City of Thomasville is on the verge of naming a new police chief.
"I would work 150 percent to get along with the new chief," Blackburn said.
The sheriff and police chief, he said, should be able to go to lunch and discuss matters.
If elected sheriff, Blackburn said he would want the drug squad to being made up of sheriff's office and police department officers. Only sheriff's office deputies are agents in the present drug squad, which is funded equally by city and county governments.
Blackburn does not know why the drug commission no longer meets. The panel is made up of the police chief, sheriff, city council and county commission members and district attorney's office representatives. The drug commission previously met monthly to receive information about drug squad activity.
"It's taxpayers' money involved," Blackburn said, adding that the drug commission should be aware of the number of drug arrests being made.
It would seem the meetings would be a platform for the drug squad to boast about the agency's accomplishments, he added.
Blackburn wants to create a culture between the sheriff's office and Thomas County's smaller communities. He also said he wants to forge a relationship between the sheriff's office and residents.
"If a deputy sees somebody in their yard, I want them to get out and talk to the person," the candidate said.
He also would call for officers, when arresting a young person, to take time to talk to the parents and explain the reason for the arrest.
"That will alleviate hard feelings toward law enforcement and regain the community's trust," Blackburn said.
People tell Blackburn they want a voice in law enforcement. He wants the community and employees to have a voice in sheriff's office operations.
"How do I know what's going on on New Hope Road if I am in Thomasville?" Blackburn asked.
In reference to his candidacy, Blackburn said, "If people of Thomas County want an opportunity for change and want fresh, positive ideas, this is it."
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820