Bryan County Sheriff Clyde Smith, who began his law enforcement career 50 years ago, says he has no plans to retire and is running for a sixth consecutive term.
“I like what I do too much,” he said. “This is where my roots are. I still enjoy going out on road patrol once in a while.”
Smith faces former Bryan County and Effingham County Deputy Cleve White in the May 24 primary. No Democrats filed to run, meaning the primary will effectively name the winner.
Smith, who began as a Savannah police officer in 1966, had two separate stints as a Bryan County sheriff’s deputy. He won a special election in 1994 out of a field of nearly a dozen candidates to fill the unexpired term of Sheriff Tim Page, who resigned. Smith was elected to his first full term in 1996, winning re-election in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.
“I’ve enjoyed the job and it’s been very good to me,” Smith said. “I’ve met a lot of good people.”
Smith said during his time in office the department has grown along with the county. There were 12 deputies when he took over in 1994; today there are 43.
“I’d like to add more personnel and more technology, but as with everything it comes down to the budget,” he said. “It’s an ongoing battle to keep up.”
Smith said he’d like to add new tools such as Tasers and body cameras for deputies as money allows.
Much of the growth Smith has overseen in his office, such as the administration building and 911 operations center off of Highway 17 just outside Richmond Hill was the result of seized drug money.
“The land was donated and we used drug money to build it,” he said. “That saved the county about $1 million.”
Smith also said he did not need to use money from the budget to purchase any new patrol vehicles for about 12 years because of the seized assets. That money now, however, is not as plentiful, he noted, because not as much drug trafficking comes out of Miami and up the Interstate 95 corridor as it once did.
It also puts a strain on the county budget, Smith said, having Bryan County split.
“You pretty much need two of everything,” he said. “Other counties put everything in the middle and operate out of there.”