Four More Years for Strength?
Howard Strength was a 69-year-old career Richmond County law enforcement officer, who always promised his family that he was going to retire and enjoy time with his loved ones “next year.” He was busy in his office at 401 Walton Way (the Law Enforcement Center) on what was a “normal day” when he took ill and was rushed by ambulance to the hospital. He was never able to leave. He died a few days later, suffering from a series of strokes that came out of the blue. As much as he may have loved his career and his public service, I can guarantee you that Howard Strength (and for that matter every other lawman I have ever known), would not have wanted his last productive day on Earth spent in that godforsaken building, cleaning up society’s godforsaken messes. The thought of his father’s passing and his retirement procrastination must haunt Richmond County’s current chief law enforcement officer, Sheriff Ronnie Strength. He was made well aware of his own mortality some 19 years ago, when he awoke from what was supposed to be a routine heart catheterization to find that the doctors were forced to perform emergency double bypass surgery to correct what has been described as a 90 percent blockage. Again, that was 19 full years ago. The sheriff turns 67 one month from the day this column hits the street, January 15. Over the course of the last few months, Strength has been put on the spot and under more pressure to run for one more term than he thought was possible. At this point, he says no. There are two men within his department who have told friends and family they are both ready to run. One has the sheriff’s blessing; the other apparently does not. Ironically, the one who likely will not have the blessing of the veteran chief lawman is his own brother-in-law. Robbie Silas is the brother of the sheriff’s wife, Patti. I am told by many in the department that he is one of the finest road patrol deputies in the state. They say if we had 25 Robbie Silases we would have the cleanest streets this side of Singapore. It has been his life-long dream to one day be sheriff, and he has been waiting on his elder to retire so he can be the man. Well… there is one problem. The sheriff apparently does not agree with those plans. And then there is a little matter of an election as well. Everyone in area law enforcement knows that Strength’s hand-picked successor is Captain Scott Peebles, and a finer young officer you can not find on the force. He has been sent through the best training, he has been given some of the toughest assignments and he has been put on the media’s center stage, where he has thrived as the bright lights burned at all hours of the night. Strength, at this point, will not declare Peebles his heir apparent, but only a fool would doubt that he is. In some political situations, that may be a liability, but when it comes to law enforcement, particularly in this day and age, only a complete dolt would reject the kind of experience and trial by fire that Peebles has been put through. Of course, the man who gets most attention in the conversation about the next sheriff is Richard Roundtree. I have said it before, and I will say it again: Given his appalling behavior as a Richmond County investigator (leaving weapons laying around a vacated rental property, improperly checking out files and failing to return them, and his unconventional visits with female prisoners) and his less than stellar track record on the job during daylight hours, it is amazing that he still has a badge, much less that he may be your next sheriff. Because of the political realities of Richmond County, and the fact that both Silas and Peebles are white and Roundtree is black, there is enormous pressure being brought to bear on Sheriff Strength to hold off retirement just a bit longer. To that, I say this: The voters of Richmond County rejected, by a 2 to 1 margin, black mayoral candidates in favor of Deke Copenhaver, not once, but twice. Scott Peebles comes to the table 10 times more qualified than Deke ever was, and he will be running against a far, far inferior black candidate than the mayor ever did. Don’t discount Peebles’ ability to win the general election against Roundtree in similar fashion, given the chance to do it. But I have said it before, and I will say it again now. There is no way Peebles beats Roundtree in a Democratic primary next year. Not with the congressional races going the way they are. No how, no way. If I had to predict right now, I say Sheriff Strength is going to be around for a while.You Might Also Like:
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