By Michaela Carter
The True Citizen
After 36 years, Burke County has a new sheriff preparing to take office -- 6,791 votes led Alfonzo Williams to victory on election day as he ended his campaign against the opposing candidate, Freddie Yelton. He says he has prepared for this moment for more than 20 years and has dedicated a large portion of his time to training for the position.
Williams recalls the feeling of relief and gratitude that came over him once the results were announced. He was surrounded by family, friends and members of the community at his victory party while the numbers were being counted.
“We are so ecstatic that people trust us and have confidence in us to do what’s right and to be a sheriff for all of the people,” said Williams.
The sheriff-elect will take on the role that Sheriff Greg Coursey will leave behind in December after serving since 1980. Sheriff Coursey has left Williams with many words of encouragement and tips on how to succeed in the office of sheriff. The two spent several hours together the day after the election discussing what it’s like to be the top law officer of the county. Coursey shared his most important initiative that he would like to see continued.
“He has been extremely passionate about taking care of the poor,” said Williams. “Before he gave me his coveted endorsement, he said ‘I just want you to take care of the poor.’”
This past Saturday, Williams, along with members of his campaign team, prepared BBQ plates at his campaign headquarters for the community to enjoy.
Aside from caring for the county’s impoverished families, the sheriff-elect has several other plans to serve the people and improve the overall living experience of all its residents. He plans to continue the legacy of Sheriff Coursey’s efforts to “be a sheriff for all of the people.”
Williams plans to bring in new technologies and innovative strategies to update the sheriff’s office including adding patrol cars with computers and assigning beat areas to reduce response times. He is also looking to give each city and community in the county its own deputy so that “rather than taking 30-45 minutes to answer to a call, [they] will reduce that to about 12-15 minutes.”
For Williams, the work does not stop with making changes within the sheriff’s office. He is looking forward to becoming involved with the Burke County Public School System and helping to maintain the safety of the educational environments.
“We believe that if teachers are able to teach and students are able to learn,” said Williams, “they will get an education and learn to sustain themselves.”
Williams is hoping to not only keep the community safe, but to also attract businesses and increase the economic development of the area by reducing crime.
“If you combine an educated workforce with a crime-free place to live, then it’s right for economic development. That’s part of our responsibility.”
According to Williams, engaging the local citizens is another important goal he hopes to achieve as sheriff. “We need them, they need us,” he said as he elaborated on his plans to unify the community. “We are going to continue to professionalize the agency so that in spite of all of the adversities going on nationally with police-community relations, our department continues to have a good relationship with the public. We’re going to strengthen that.”
Under the leadership of Williams, officers can expect to get trained above the minimum state requirements. The state now requires that officers only have 20 hours of continuing education per year; he is tripling that number to 60 hours. He believes this will enhance the ability of each officer to effectively do their jobs and ultimately fulfill his primary focus of reducing crime. Within the first six months of his term, he guarantees that crime will be cut in half.
While taking on the role as the new sheriff, Williams asks for the community’s continuous support throughout his term. “ We need the community behind us. We need their help when it comes to funding, further professionalizing law enforcement in our agency in particular … we need a lot of help,” he said. He wants the community to “be patient with the department and continue to trust [them] as [they] build the agency into one that is going to be a premier agency in Georgia.”