When Ariana Johnson saw Richard Roundtree on Tuesday evening, she knew she had to stop the car.
The 22-year-old was driving through the intersection at Peach Orchard and Windsor Spring roads with her friends Terrell Stevens and Joseph Ivey II when she spotted Roundtree waving at passing cars and got a little excited.
“She was driving, but when she saw him I had to start driving,” Ivey said after the three pulled into a gas station parking lot to speak with the Democratic candidate for Richmond County sheriff.
Johnson said she wanted to meet Roundtree because she intends to vote for him in her first election Nov. 6.
“He’s the first person I have heard of who seems to care about why things are happening,” she said.
Johnson said she is concerned about young people whose lives can be ruined by one run-in with the law. She thinks Roundtree would be the kind of sheriff who would work to solve the problems that create crime, not just “throw everybody in jail.”
“Everybody deserves a couple of chances to get on their feet,” she said. “You don’t know what kind of circumstances they were born into.”
Roundtree, who would make history as the county’s first black sheriff if he beats Republican Freddie Sanders, said it was good to see young voters interested in the sheriff’s race. Meeting such voters was the reason he and seven members of his campaign team bracketed the intersection corners for two hours Tuesday, holding up signs, waving at motorists and shouting, “One more time.”
He hopes every honk, wave or thumbs-up they got means another vote in the November election.
He has been doing this type of campaigning since before the primary, but he hit on the idea by accident.
Roundtree said that one evening when some of his volunteers were waiting to regroup in a parking lot on Wrightsboro Road after canvassing neighborhoods, one member picked up a sign and began waving at traffic.
He said the reaction was so positive that it has become part of his strategy to interact with voters. He said people he wouldn’t normally get to talk with will stop to say hello and ask questions.
“The closer we got to the election, the more you could see people getting excited,” he said.
Ronnie Battle, a retired Air Force master sergeant, was keeping Roundtree company on the corner, holding a campaign sign and smiling broadly at every car.
“People can really feel the spirit,” Battle said. “A warm smile goes a long way.”