Athens-Clarke County’s new sheriff has been decided. Democratic candidate John Q. Williams won the election with 34,840 votes, according to unofficial results from the Georgia Secretary of State. His opponent, Republican Robert Hare, earned 14,986 votes.
Williams, who currently serves as a sergeant in the ACC Police Department, will replace incumbent sheriff Ira Edwards, who has served as the county’s sheriff since first being elected in 2000. Williams defeated Edwards in the Democratic primary by fewer than 400 votes.
While on the campaign trail, Williams said his primary focus as sheriff would be addressing the sheriff’s office’s lack of community involvement. He said he plans to increase transparency and host community events, and said he’d like to start programs that allow law enforcement officers to sponsor or coach athletic and arts programs.
“I’m very excited for this opportunity,” Williams said. “Very happy that the people have spoken, and that I’ll be the next sheriff for Clarke County. I really can’t wait to get to work, and it’s going to be about building relationships with the community to keep the community safer.”
He said he wanted to bring law enforcement “into the 21st century” by partnering with the local area and working together with the ACCPD, University of Georgia Police Department, Georgia Bureau of Investigation and other agencies.
Williams worked for the University of Georgia Police Department from 1998 to 2002 as a communications officer and worked there again from 2005 to 2007. He then went on to work for the ACCPD as a communications officer, but became a patrol officer in 2009 before eventually becoming a sergeant.
Hare, a former U.S. Marine and sergeant in the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, focused his campaign on resolving staffing issues within the sheriff’s office. He said that without adequate staffing, the office may have problems handling criminal warrants.
Hare could not be reached for comment as of press time.