In the two days since he became the sheriff-elect of Richmond County, Richard Roundtree said, his phone hasn’t stopped ringing with calls of congratulations and words of advice.
E-mails have poured in and his Facebook account has been swamped with friend requests.
After being in campaign mode for months, Roundtree is facing two more months of work to prepare to take over the sheriff’s seat. He decided to take Wednesday off and let the phone ring.
“I just took a day to myself to reflect,” he said Thursday. “Now it’s back to work. There is a lot to do.”
Roundtree leaves Sunday for a four-week training course for new sheriffs in Forsyth, Ga., so his main goal this week is to meet with Sheriff Ronnie Strength to begin discussing the transition. Strength has pledged to help in any way he can.
“I want everything to be in place by Dec. 20,” Roundtree said, referring to the day he will take his oath of office.
After he completes training, Roundtree said, he wants to focus on personnel changes. He plans to get a handle on the number of open jobs and any impending departures before making decisions about reshuffling positions or creating new ones.
Roundtree said he is aware that some officers in the senior staff intend to retire, either immediately or within the next several months, but he wasn’t ready to talk about who would make up his executive team come Jan. 1, when he officially takes over.
The only major change he intends to make is the creation of a Volunteer Services Division, which will administer a volunteer deputy program, a citizens advisory board and an Explorer program for youths.
“Will I be using existing personnel? Yes,” he said. “Will I be bringing in outside personnel? Yes.”
Strength said he would have an open door to his successor in the next two months and offered a bit of advice to the sheriff-elect.
“The first thing that I would do is to come in and meet the staff and make sure I had a good rapport with them,” he said. “He must place his confidence in the people who are doing the job now because you have to rely and depend on them.”
Strength said it was important for the two men to work together to ensure a smooth transition.
“When you come into the office, you have got to be successful because the community depends on it,” he said.
Roundtree said he plans to pause one more time to savor the moment before focusing full time on the responsibilities of becoming the county’s chief law enforcement officer.
That will be at a grand inauguration ball Jan. 4 at the Legends Club on Washington Road – the site of Tuesday’s victory party.
“It will be a black-tie event,” he said, for the “community to celebrate and commemorate” the historic nature of his taking office. He is the first black sheriff in the county’s 230-year history.
“It is a big deal for the city,” he said.