After 36 years in law enforcement, Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength will make his final rounds and say goodbye to investigators, some of whom he has worked with for decades, Monday morning.
Looking ahead to it Sunday, he said it was impossible to know how he would feel.
Even with the looming thought of turning in his keys to Car 1 and packing up his desk, Strength said he has never faltered in his decision to retire.
“I have not had one second thought about it,” he said. “None.”
Strength said he will do the same things Monday he has done every morning since being elected to sheriff in 2000. He will drive to the office, pick up any messages and “see what’s going on.”
“If anything comes up that I need to be involved in, I will,” he said.
After making sure all is in order in Richmond County, Strength said he will begin his farewell tour. He plans to say goodbye personally to the investigators in the Criminal Investigation Unit, and in other areas.
He said he knows it will be sad, but also necessary.
“I will miss folks,” he said.
The three-term sheriff said he will also miss the community and knows there will be a little pang when he reads of major events and he’s not involved. However, he is mostly excited for the future.
“Really, number one, I’m excited about being able to retire,” he said. “It’s hard to say exactly how I will feel on my last day, but I’m really excited about retirement.”
For more than three decades, Strength rose through the ranks from street patrol to sheriff, all in Augusta. Before announcing his retirement in March, he said he received calls from judges, commissioners, ministers and just about everyone in Augusta urging him to run again. After he made it clear he was not pursuing another term, those calls took on a melancholy tone.
After he lost his father in 1987, he credits former Sheriff Charlie Webster for laying a smooth path for him and for being the mentor and role model he needed. Webster died in November, but Strength said his friend was always supportive of his decision to leave public office.
“I talked to him 18 months ago (about retiring),” he said. “He was always very supportive.”
Although it won’t be like so many other days, when Strength walked into the office and sat down to strategize about how to best protect the 200,000 citizens of Richmond County, he said he couldn’t possibly predict how it would feel to walk out of the building he called home and away from the men and women he knew as family.
“I can’t really tell you that,” he said. “I guess we’ll just have to see.”