Cleve White, who served 13 years as a Bryan County sheriff’s deputy, is running for sheriff because he doesn’t think the county is as safe as it should be.
“The drug problem in this county is a lot more serious than people think,” he said. “I’m running for my family and for everyone else’s.”
White faces incumbent Sheriff Clyde Smith in the May 24 primary. No Democrats filed to run, meaning the primary will effectively name the winner.
White worked for the Bryan County Sheriff’s Office from 1997 to 2010, and for the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office from 2010 to 2015. He is now a court reporter in Effingham County.
“I’ve been contemplating running for a while,” he said. “That’s one reason I left the department, and then I stepped down in Effingham when I knew I was going to run.”
White said he thinks the sheriff’s office could do a better job communicating with the public.
“I think a lot of people, like with the drug problem, think that if they ignore it then it will go away,” he said. “My kids tell me what it’s like in the schools. This problem is not going away.”
White said he would withdraw the deputies who are now assigned to the Counter Narcotics Team in Savannah and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations’ drug task force and concentrate on Bryan County.
“We could use the money we pay to be part of those groups to hire a third deputy and focus strictly on our county,” he said. “Maybe the Richmond Hill and Pembroke police departments would want to join in and it could be a five-man team.”
White said the most serious problems now are with prescription drugs and methamphetamines.
“You can pretty much get marijuana anywhere you want, and heroin is actually starting to make a comeback in this area,” he added.
White said he believes the BCSO is generally “behind the times.”
He said deputies do not have Tasers or body cameras and very few patrol cars have computers in them.
“Having a Taser is a first line of defense,” he said. “I was in some fights when I worked here where I had to use my flashlight to subdue someone. Up in Effingham, just having a Taser was a great deterrence. There are grants available that should be pursued to buy them so it doesn’t take money from the budget.”
White added that he thinks the BCSO also should have a dive team, SWAT training and patrol rifles.
He also says he would focus on salary issues if he’s elected.
“When I left Bryan County I was a sergeant, and even starting at the bottom in Effingham County I was making 50 cents more an hour,” he said. “A lot of deputies work second jobs, but with better pay we wouldn’t have to worry about losing people to other departments. This is not a poor county. We can afford it.”