By Joe Johnson
Athens-Clarke County Sheriff John Q. Williams is running for a school term in office.
He made the announcement during a launch party at the Winterville Cultural Center.
The first-term sheriff told supporters and well wishers that if re-elected he would continue the work of changing the culture of law enforcement to be more professional and dedicated to the people.
"You have to be a humanitarian — You can’t hate people” Williams said. “We want to make sure that our [officers] are professional, that they’re well trained and they continue training throughout their career, not just the minimum hours that you have to but beyond that.”
He announced a partnership with state Rep. Spencer Frye and Habitat for Humanity on a program that will teach jail inmates to manufacture modules for tiny houses. Those homes could house the homeless, or released inmates who’ve lost their housing while incarcerated could use them.
In his time in office, Williams said that he hired more female deputies, who are now almost 50- percent of the sheriff's force, and has cracked down on illegal drugs finding their way into the jail.
Williams said he has placed an emphasis on community outreach.
"Athens is my home, and no one cares more about making Athens safe and prosperous than I do,” he said.
The sheriff said he hopes to close the wage gap in law enforcement, organize more community events such as a Fall festival and address problems like food insecurity in Athens.
Williams emphasized understanding the community and individuals through listening to people's problems and not just assuming.
“It’s not what you choose to do, it’s what calls you,” Williams said. “So now I’m here. I think I’ve done a pretty good job.”
Among those in attendance at the Winterville Cultural Center were members of the Athens-Clarke County boards of Commissioners and Education.
Williams was elected in 2020, after having defeated five-term incumbent Ira Edwards Jr. in a Democratic primary.
He previously had nearly 20 years in law enforcement, serving with the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, where he was a sergeant and had been assigned to the Criminal Investigations Division.
In his bid for a second term, Williams so far has one announced opponent: Tommy Dorsey, a police officer with the Clarke County School Districtt who had served as a sheriff's deputy under Ira Edwards.
Williams is a Democrat, but it’s unclear whether Dorsey will run in the May Democratic primary or as a Republican or independent in November.