Question on Muscogee County ballots about changing Sheriff’s title

Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 10:39 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Countdown to election day. Early voting is almost over -- ending in Georgia this Friday, November 4th.

Voters decide some top offices in the state including the governor and U.S. senate, but they will also be voting on some key questions on the ballot.

One of those questions involves local law enforcement.

For over 50 years, the Sheriff serving our area has been referred to as the “Sheriff of the Consolidated Government.” However, Sheriff Greg Countryman in Muscogee County says he believes it’s time for that name to change.

Muscogee County voters have shown up in record numbers, casting ballots in October, ahead of the November election. Aside from choosing candidates, people in Georgia will also see a series of questions asking whether they are for or against proposed changes to state and local constitutions.

One of those is Article eight. It asks voters whether they believe the city’s charter should be changed to refer to the Sheriff as the Sheriff of Muscogee County. Since 1971, the person in the position has been referred to as the “Sheriff of the Consolidated Government.”

“I actually noticed that when I was in the position of Marshall when I was elected Marshal this happen when Sheriff Darr was Sheriff and I just happened to be reading through the City Charter,” said Sheriff Countryman. “That was one thing that really -- that even as Marshal -- it troubled me because that’s, that’s just not written, accurate, or correct in the City Charter.”

Sheriff Countryman has been in that job since January 2021, after nearly 30 years in law enforcement, The First African American sheriff in Muscogee County says he himself was not even aware that the question asking voters about the title change was on the ballot.

“If you look at the other 158 counties -- their sheriff is titled after the county -- Bibb County Sheriff, Fulton County Sheriff, DeKalb County Sheriff. Richmond County Sheriff. Sheriff is named after the county because the law of Georgia says every county shall have a sheriff,” he adds.

He also clarified some misconceptions that the name change is an attempt to take more power.

“It’s not a power grab. The sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer for the county. There is nothing more powerful in the county as it relates to law enforcement than the sheriff,” said Sheriff Countryman.

Many people online agree with Sheriff Countryman, saying, “It’s time for a change everyone.”

Sheriff Countryman also clarified that voting in favor of the name change will not add on or change his responsibilities or cost taxpayers any money. To view a sample ballot to see the remaining ballot questions, click here.