Originally created 07/21/02

Officers' hobbies pay off as second jobs



Not all sheriff's deputies moonlight as mall security guards. In Richmond County, there are officers who have second jobs as a magician, a race car mechanic, a radio DJ and a farrier.

Though the pay went up slightly for officers in Richmond County recently, some deputies say second jobs are as necessary as pepper spray and bulletproof vests. Supporting a family or sending children to college can be downright expensive, especially on an entry-level salary of $25,103. Several officers have turned hobbies into money-makers, though.

"In our jobs, we don't make enough to make ends meet. We've got to do something extra," said Deputy Terry Norman, who trades handcuffs for wrenches as a race-car mechanic.

On most Saturday nights, Deputy Norman can be found at I-20 Speedway in Leesville, S.C., where driver Jack Watson races the deputy's No. 79 car.

It's the red-and-black racer with the nose of a Dodge Intrepid. Last month, it took the checkered flag and earned its owner a $750 prize.

"It pays pretty good, and I get to do what I enjoy," said Deputy Norman, who also owns a signmaking business.

He has been a deputy for five years and a racing enthusiast for 15, ever since his first trip to the track. Recently, he has worked with Walter Newman Race Cars, building chassis from the ground up.

"I never had the desire to race them, just to work on them," he said. " They wreck it and tear it up. I fix it and put it back together."

Before Michael Gilliland ever picked up a police badge, he waved a magic wand. He was 8 when he got a magic set as a gift. Now, at 42, his professional magic shows help pay for emergencies and college tuition for his son and wife.

"It helps with everything," he said. "We just had major car problems while we were out of town. So, of course, anything helps."

As a quartermaster for the sheriff's office, Officer Gilliland hands out pepper spray, uniforms and other equipment to deputies. As a magician, he handles rabbits and magic hats.

He has turned a hobby into a successful business that carries him across the Southeast to children's birthday parties and corporate fund-raisers. The veteran officer performs about 250 shows a year under the name Magic With a Twist.

His business is a family affair. His wife, Beth, assists the show, and his daughter Laura does face painting. His son Steven spins his own magic in Athens, enriching campus life at the University of Georgia.

"In law enforcement, you have to be professional and up on the law," Officer Gilliland said. "In magic, you still have to be professional, but it leaves more room to cut up and be a kid. We have a good time."

Deputy Danny Clark, who helps keep order in Richmond County Superior Court, has a good time as a DJ for radio station WEKL-FM (102.3). He started as a janitor at a radio station when he was a teenager.

"I wanted to be in radio so bad. I cleaned up the radio station, and one thing led to the other," he said. "My first gig was overnights. I thought I was something."

The deputy, known as Boomer Daniels to radio listeners, has his own classic rock show on weeknights and Saturdays.

"It's my escape from the real world," he said.

Deputy Andy Cook's passion is for horses. As a child, he watched his brother's friend make and fit horseshoes.

"When someone asked me about what I was going to do, I said shoe horses," he said.

In his early 20s, he took a two-month farrier course near Greensboro, N.C. Soon after, he was injured when a horse threw him, chipping a disk in his back and causing a pinched nerve.

"The doctor said to quit doing it, so I stopped for a year," he said.

Deputy Cook, 43, has been a sheriff's deputy for 15 years, but he still spends much of his free time inspecting, trimming and shaping the hooves of horses.

He depends mostly on regular customers and said he has customers in Richmond, McDuffie, Aiken, Burke and Columbia counties.

He sometimes handles 25 horses a day, either trimming their hooves or replacing their shoes. His 11-year-old son frequently helps out by cleaning out the hooves.

Believe it or not, he sees similarities between his two jobs. As a deputy, he said, he often talks to hard-headed people who don't want to listen.

"A horse will be the same way. You have to do what you can to get the job done," he said. "But horses will listen to you better than some people."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.