EDITOR’S NOTE: Since Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength announced that he will not seek re-election, four candidates have emerged: Lt. John Ivey, Capt. Scott Peebles, Lt. Richard Roundtree and Lt. Robbie Silas. Here, Peebles answers questions about his candidacy.
Q: Why do you want to be sheriff?
A: The main reason is that I have lived here all my life, and I’ve spent my entire adult life at the sheriff’s office. I have a vision of where I would like to see that agency go and I don’t believe that any of the other people who are talking about running can see that vision through.
Everything is going great for me right now, as good as it has gone since I can remember, and so to take this on is really quite risky. But that having been said, I talked to (my wife) Mandi about it and we both believe in Augusta and Richmond County and we just believe it is something we have to do. We think that to keep this community moving forward, the second largest city in the state, then it’s got to have leadership that acts like it is the second largest city in the state. That’s really the reason that I’m doing it.
Q: Some have said you have been groomed by Sheriff Ronnie Strength for this job. How do you respond?
A: I think that is a two-way street, I don’t know if there was so much grooming as there were opportunities to succeed. I was given opportunities and I excelled. It helped us and our relationship. He developed trust in me. He knew that if given a task that I was going to handle it. I know what it is like to be in a leadership role and to hand something over and to know that it is going to get done right. And to take that burden off of you to some degree.
Q: You’ve said you want to move toward a community policing model. What has to change to accomplish that?
A: First you have to change the mindset. We have to make sure that every single person in the agency understands that our mission is to serve the community. No different than Chick-fil-A or any other business, our job is to serve people. We have to make sure that there is a culture within the agency that fully understands that everyday when I walk out that door that I’m going to serve people. I’m going to improve somebody’s quality of life today.
I think we focus on being law enforcement and that sometimes creates a division between us and the community. That sometimes police officers feel like they have to act as overseers. We have to be problem solvers.
Q: What do you need to work on to improve yourself?
A: Sometimes I’ve got to let things go. I’m very passionate. When I was working homicides, I used that passion and anxiety to help me work the case. I couldn’t turn it off. I used that to my advantage at work, but at home I alienated myself from my family and my family fell apart because of it. Now, I think I have found balance in my life, but I still think I’ve got to do better and trust the people I have in those places to do their job.
Q: Where do you see you biggest support coming from?
A: To be honest with you I think most of my support is coming from the black community. I’ve got a lot support all over, but I would say that the majority of my support is coming from the black community. They will tell you that I am not Johnny-come-lately. I’ve been out there in those district on Saturdays, Sundays, nighttime, you name it; when I am off duty I’ve been out there trying to solve the problems that are going on.
Q: Are you a Democrat?
A: Typically over the years I have voted on both sides. I’m not 1,000 percent on either side, but politically, in Augusta, I’m more closely aligned with the Democratic Party. There’s no Obama sticker on my car because it is a county car, but I will tell you I was at the inauguration.