Early voting officially began, Monday, May 18. The only local race happening is the run for Sheriff between Chief Deputy Clay Burnsed and former Georgia State Patrol Captain Robert Phillips. The Herald sent questions to the candidates. The following are the answers that were provided.

Clay Bursned

Biographical info

I have lived in Charlton County for most of my life. I am married to April Lea (Chism) Burnsed from the Moniac area of Charlton County. We have four children, Dalton Burnsed, Natalea Jane (Josh) Hayden, Abigail Burnsed and Chandler Raymond. We have two grandchildren, Paisley and Joseph Hayden. I was raised in a family of law enforcement officers, as both my dad, Gary Floyd Burnsed, Retired Baker County Deputy, and Stepdad, Charlton County Sheriff Dobie E. Conner have always played a huge role in my decision to become a law enforcement officer. Before becoming an officer, I was a firefighter for Glynn County Fire Department. I have over 20 years in public service work. I have been in law enforcement for almost 18 years with over 15 years serving the citizens of Charlton County. I have worked as a Deputy, Investigator, Sgt. Investigator in Narcotics and now my current position as Chief Deputy for the past two years. The role of the Chief Deputy is to oversee the day-to-day operations of the Sheriff’s Office from the jail, dispatch, administration, budget and patrol.

Why did you decide to run for Sheriff?

I have dreamed of becoming Sheriff of Charlton County since I became a law enforcement officer. Watching Sheriff Conner all these years and the love he has for his job as Sheriff and his love for this community was inspiring to me. I want to continue serving the citizens of Charlton County and being able to help the people of the community when in need. Being a sheriff is not always about locking up criminals; it’s being a friend, counselor, a sounding board, and problem solver, just to name a few. As Chief Deputy, I have had the opportunity to help citizens in our community by getting their children, who may have had a drug problem, the help they needed to turn their lives around. That has been the most rewarding opportunity I’ve experienced in my career.

During my career in law enforcement, I have seen things one should never have to see, cried more than I ever dreamed of and been called things that are not pleasant. However, on the other hand, I have been thanked by citizens of Charlton and blessed  within my heart knowing I am up holding the law with morals, integrity, honesty, ethics‚ and completing these things with a compassion for protecting those in our community.

Why do you think you are the best candidate for the job?

In my position as Chief Deputy, I understand the day-to-day operations of the Sheriff’s Office. I am a taxpayer myself and understand that the Sheriff’s Office needs to be run as efficiently and economically as possible, and with the understanding of what equipment is needed to keep our deputies as safe as possible and get the job done. I feel like I have earned the chance to be your Sheriff by my commitment to the citizens of Charlton County for over the last 15 years, and I want to continue to serve Charlton for 15 more.

What is the most important issue facing the Charlton County Sheriff’s Office?

The biggest issue we are facing in Charlton County is Methamphetamines. This is an epidemic that hit our county like a wildfire. Our drug investigators work hard to get Methamphetamines out of our communities. We have seen families ruined because of this drug and other drugs as well, but Meth has been the worse thing I’ve seen in my career. It is sad to watch these families being torn apart because of drugs. I think this is the most important issue we have as a community facing us all.

If elected, what changes do you think  need to be made? 

As Sheriff, I want to declare a war on drugs in our community! Most citizens would agree this is most important at any cost! Other’s disagree due to the fact that it costs money to bring on more personnel in an effort to be more effective. There are 12 hours of everyday in Charlton County that we have one deputy on the south end of the county and one deputy on the north end of the county. The dividing line is on Hwy. 121 at the Dirt Farm Track. That is huge area for one deputy to cover. Not to mention the danger of the one deputy being in the most southern or northern part of the county when the need of officer assistance arises, but his back-up is 25 to 55 minutes away. I know this danger because it has happened to me when I worked on the road as a deputy. It is not a good feeling. The other problem that needs to be addressed, and we are currently working on, is our radio system. We are one of the only two counties in Georgia that is not enhanced 911. Compared to surrounding agencies, we are 15 years outdated on our radio communications and 911 system. We have areas of Charlton County where deputies can not reach dispatch by radio should they need help. It is dangerous and a liability. This needs to be fixed immediately. I feel these are the most important changes facing the new sheriff, and I will see this completed if elected Sheriff June 9, 2020.

Robert Phillips

Biographical info

I was born and raised in Charlton County and educated by some of the finest teachers in the world. They not only taught me reading, writing and arithmetic,  they taught me about God, family and the love of country. I’ve been married to my wife Penny, for 39 years. Our family consists of one son,  Dusty and his wife, Lacey. They have two sons; Asher, 10 and Evan, 7, both the pride of our lives. Dusty was recently hired as a teacher and football coach at Charlton County High and is moving home.

I started my career with the City of Folkston in 1974, moved on to the Charlton County Sheriff’s Office in 1981, then joined the Georgia State Patrol in 1982. I served as a Captain in the southeast region of Georgia, managing 85 employees in 15 counties. I have a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice and I teach Public Safety Management at Columbus State University and Criminal Justice at Coastal Pines Technical College.

Why did you decide to run for Sheriff?

I’ve devoted my life to the study and practice of criminal justice. The world has changed significantly during my career and I’ve worked hard to adapt to those changes.  Forty years ago, when I began my career, there was little or no training for small town agencies.  Give a man a gun and badge and tell him to do good.  Not so today, all of that has changed. Education and training are the first steps to becoming a Police Officer. 

Management in the law enforcement field is more complex than ever. I served 32 years with the Georgia State Patrol. As Troop Commander, I managed 70-75 employees at any given time. I handled personnel matters, performance management and was responsible for the conduct of all the personnel in my Troop.  I have no problem making tough decisions.  

A sheriff should be strong, yet flexible, tough-minded, yet empathetic. An agency that has had leadership under one administration for 28 years, no matter how successful, can benefit from fresh ideas and a new management style as the old guard passes the baton of leadership. I feel that I’m the most qualified and can bring a fresh perspective to the table.

Why do you think you’re the best candidate for the job?

The leader must be pro-active, diligent and above all must have the integrity and courage to stand, even when it’s not popular!  I am that man!  I have the experience, the knowledge and the education to be your sheriff.  But most of all, I have the common sense and the ability to adapt to the needs of an ever-changing world. The changes I’ve outlined above can be accomplished without raising taxes.  Frugal co-ordination of resources and personnel will be a priority for me.  

I will be a working sheriff and will be out on patrol as much as time allows.  The Folkston area tends to get good patrol coverage and I intend to expend time and resources in St. George and Moniac in order to get to know people and understand the needs of the south end of our county!  The influx of people into the area over the past 20 years has changed the makeup of the community and requires more attention. 

The Racepond and Winokur communities deserve the attention of the sheriff on a regular basis also.  I enjoy patrolling and meeting people! I can’t understand your needs if I don’t get out to see you!

I promise to protect, support and defend the Constitutions of the United States and the great state of Georgia. I embrace the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and I’ll never waiver when it comes to respecting your rights as a citizen.  I believe our rights as Americans includes every race, creed and color on God’s earth!  I promise to standby this guarantee of equal rights!

In particularly, your rights to “Freedom of speech‚ the right to bear arms‚ and freedom against unreasonable search and seizure” the Bill of Rights being our guarantee of protection against our own governments!

What is the most important issue facing the Charlton County Sheriff’s Office?

School Resource Officers, Animal Control and Drug Enforcement 

If elected, what changes need to be made?

Community involvement with our youth and establishing a more sociable relationship between our entire community and law enforcement.  Our children are our future and our elderly are our legacy.  I’d like to work on a plan to encourage community involvement in our schools, recreation programs and our Senior Center.  We need to spend more time taking care of our youth and our elderly. 

Educational opportunities for department personnel. Our law enforcement officers, communications officers and corrections officers should be given the opportunity to train to better perform their jobs.  Our community will benefit and the individual can prepare for greater opportunities.  I had an instructor at the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College tell me; ‚“If I’m not training you to replace me some day, I’m doing and you and our community a disservice”. I believe training and continuing education provide officers better skills to do their jobs in today’s world.