WRENS, Ga. — Ronnie Strength ditched the patrol car for a tractor more than a year ago, and he said he doesn’t regret the decision one bit.
The 36-year law enforcement veteran said he is enjoying retirement on his 109-acre farm, White Oaks, just outside Wrens’ city limits in Jefferson County. It’s nothing like the fast-paced lifestyle of being sheriff of Richmond County, Strength said, but he finds ways to keep busy.
“There’s always something for me to do here,” said Strength as he rocked back in his leather recliner. “Especially in the spring and the summer.”
Every morning begins the same way for him now, Strength said. He grabs breakfast at Peggy’s Restaurant on Main Street in Wrens, always arriving by 7:10 a.m.
After filling up, he heads to the post office to check his mail.
“There are a lot of big things to do around here,” he said with a laugh.
Strength then heads home to tend to his expansive property. More than 80 acres is wooded, so he usually will find himself deep in the brush, clearing debris from one of his six deer stands. The property, which has a wealth of deer, turkeys and coyotes roaming about, has proven to be fertile hunting grounds for Strength and his brother.
His favorite activity on White Oaks, however, is passing the time by cutting grass on one of his three midsize tractors.
“When you’re out there on the tractor and you’re busy doing what you’re doing, you don’t have another thought in the world,” Strength said. “Definitely not a thought that would be worrisome in any way. It’s just a great feeling to be out here on that tractor and not have a care in the world.”
Strength and his wife decided to sell their Augusta home and retire to the countryside after growing envious of the simple lifestyle Wrens residents were living, he said. His wife, Patti, still works for the juvenile court in Augusta, so she makes the 45-minute commute on the weekdays.
Their new home, which they purchased from a widow who could no longer care for the property, includes a “man cave” in the basement equipped with a large flat-screen television, mini refrigerator and coffee pot. Strength said he and his brother make good use of the room after a long day’s hunt.
The home’s previous owner assembled a basement bar made of stone and stained wood. A full-size pool table serves as the bar’s centerpiece and billiard lights hang from above. Strength joked that he needed only a liquor license and a cash register to run a full-service bar out of his home.
Strength is just eight miles from the Richmond County line, but even further away from the daily hustle and bustle of downtown Augusta. The only sound that can be heard from the living room of Strength’s ranch-style home is the steady tick-tock from a large grandfather clock in the next room.
While rocking in his recliner, he reflected on the few things he misses about Richmond County: the people who treated him so well, the abundance of restaurants and his former co-workers at the sheriff’s office.
“The folks that really deserve all the credit no matter how successful the sheriff is are the folks on the street every day,” Strength said. “They made my job easy.”
Strength was successful in drumming up the support of the people he served in his 12 years as sheriff.
He was elected sheriff after beating Republican candidate Leon Garvin with 74 percent of the vote in 2000, according to The Augusta Chronicle archives. Strength was re-elected in 2004 and 2008, running unopposed in both elections before announcing his retirement.
After handing over the reins to Richard Roundtree, Strength said he has maintained contact with his successor, whom he considers a close friend.
“Matter of fact, he called me last week,” Strength said. “But we do not discuss how that agency should run. We don’t, and we shouldn’t.”
Strength added that he knows how stressful the role of sheriff can be, especially at an agency the size of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s something you worry about every night when you get home,” Strength said about being sheriff. “Are my people going to be all right? Is anybody going to be hurt tonight? Are we taking care of the neighborhoods like we should? Am I staying within the budget that you have to stay in? It’s never not going to be a stressful job.”
Since his retirement, Strength said he hasn’t taken any pills to lower his blood pressure.
Having worked since age 13, Strength said, he wanted to retire while he was still young enough to remain active. He consulted with his wife and former Richmond County Sheriff Charles B. Webster several months before announcing that he wouldn’t run for a fourth term, ultimately deciding that his time had come.
“I wanted to enjoy some of my life,” Strength said. “We’re not promised tomorrow, so I’m enjoying every day.”