Special Report: Interview with former Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr
COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - He was part of a big lawsuit against the city of Columbus and some say it was the demise of his career as Muscogee County Sheriff.
So what does John Darr say about that, his relationship with the Mayor, what he's doing now and whether he'll run for office again?
He hasn't spoken to any media since losing the election- until now. Cheryl Renee got the chance to sit down with him for an exclusive one-on-one.
It's the day that changed the future for Sheriff John Darr: December 6, 2016, the runoff election between the eight-year incumbent and Donna Tompkins, a retired sheriff's captain. When the votes were counted, it was Darr with 48 percent of the vote to Tompkins 52 percent.
Cheryl: Take us back to the day after the runoff when you realized you had lost to Donna Tompkins. What was going through your mind?
Darr: I admit I was a little surprised. I thought going into the runoff that I had a good shot of coming out on top so it did catch me by surprise. It was really a mixture of disappointment and surprise.
Cheryl; So has it been difficult moving on?
Darr: Cheryl for me, I told people when I was the sheriff, for me, it was the job but that didn't define who John Darr was. It really did not. So for me, it really hasn't been that hard to be perfectly honest with you.
Perhaps what has been hard is living in the shadow of the lawsuit he filed in 2014 against the city, saying the mayor and council overstepped their authority when they cut his proposed budget for the fiscal year 2015 by two million dollars.
Darr: At the time I thought that that's what was needed to get the proper funding for the sheriff's office to do what we need to do as a sheriff's office not only for the employees of the sheriff's office but for the citizens of Muscogee County. Of course, it ended up being very controversial. I'm sure that played a factor in me losing the election but at the time I thought that was what was needed.
Would I do it differently? Of course, I would do it differently. Looking back at it now I probably should have reached out to some of the former mayors such as Poydasheff, Wetherington to act as a liaison between me and the sheriff's office and the city.
Cheryl: Let me clarify are you saying you would not have filed the lawsuit?
Darr: Yes.That was probably the mistake I shouldn't have done. I think there were so many different avenues we could have resolved a lot of that. All that time though, I thought that's what was needed. Hindsight I would change it.
Cheryl: Speaking of your budget, an internal audit says your department was over budget by $13 million before you left office. What do you say to that?
Darr: You can make numbers kinda sound like the way you want it to sound and of course as I said the last few years when I was in office when we started talking about being over budget a lot of it was driven by medical costs and of course I don't try to make excuses. There's such a huge difference of being over budget and being underfunded. There's more I could say but I'm not going to make this a negative thing back and forth.
Cheryl: How would you describe your relationship with the mayor and council during your time in office?
Darr: At the very beginning, I think it was fine. In my opinion, at the end, I don't think it was where it needed to be. We just had a difference of opinion of course over the funding of the sheriff's office. "I wish my time as sheriff when it was ended that it was better from my relationship with the current mayor to some of the city council. I don't think my relationship wall all the city council was that bad at the end. I really don't.
Darr started with the Muscogee County Sheriff's office at the age of 21, was there for 28 years, the last eight as sheriff.
Darr: I think I left an impression on the sheriff's office when you look at it from the PR aspect of how much involved we were out here in the community in a number of different things from the autism community to working with at-risk youth and things like that. We were very involved in our partners in education at MLK elementary.
Cheryl: What have you been doing since then?
Darr: A lot of people ask me that, What have I been up to since then, spending a lot of time with my family, my grandkids of course. Anybody that knows me really well Cheryl knows that I'm all about my family. I'm just doing a lot of stuff around the house and doing a little bit of work with my best friend.
Cheryl: Will you run for office again?
Darr: Right now I don't see that happening but I'll never say never. I think about that but right now I don't know what I would do.
Cheryl: Have you talked to your wife about it?
Darr: Oh yes. My wife is very supportive. I'm very lucky in that sense. I don't think my wife would have a problem with it. I enjoyed serving the public.
After spending time with the former sheriff Cheryl got the feeling that he's not closing the door to public service Some time down the line. In what capacity? Only time will tell.