David Cheshire is running for sheriff of Lee County.
LEESBURG -- David Cheshire offers a simple enough response when asked why he decided to run against his former boss, Lee County Sheriff Reggie Rachals, in the July 31 Republican primary election.
"A lot of people I've talked with in the county feel the same way I do: that the change they voted for in the last sheriff's election didn't take place," Cheshire said. "Several people have told me the deputy they voted for three years ago is not the sheriff that's in office now."
Cheshire, a 23-year law enforcement veteran who's worked with the Calhoun, Early and Lee County Sheriff's offices, resigned from his position with LSO in November and announced a week later he'd decided to make his first run at elected office.
"I feel the people of Lee County deserve a sheriff that will look out for their best interest," Cheshire said. "I've been in (law enforcement) long enough and with the (Lee) sheriff's department long enough to see things that I don't think are right. And most of the concerns I have -- and citizens in the county have -- are about money."
Cheshire has made fiscal responsibility the cornerstone of his campaign to oust Rachals, who is serving his fourth year in office after defeating longtime Sheriff Harold Breeden in 2008.
"What's on everyone in the county's mind right now in these tough economic times is the budget," Cheshire said. "Sheriff Rachals ran (four years ago) on a promise that he would cut Sheriff Breeden's budget, and the first budget he put together asked for $1.3 million in increases. Where every other department head in the county was making cuts, he was asking for more.
Office Sought: Lee County Sheriff
Law Enforcement Experience: 23 years (Calhoun, Early, Lee Sheriff’s offices)
Elected Office: No experience
Special Education: EMT certification (Albany Technical College); Georgia Fire Academy graduate; First-responder course (40 hours); Field training officer (40 hours); Child safety seat technician (40 hours); POST-certified
Family: Wife Kristi (Lee County paramedic); Children, Danielle Musgrove, 25; Taylor Cheshire, 16; Mikayla Eubanks, 11
"I believe the sheriff's department is vital and must be properly funded, but I also believe its employees are like the other county employees. And we have to look at how what we do affects them."
The challenger called Rachals' administrative staff "top-heavy," saying the incumbent has forgotten the department's "foundation."
"The foundation of the sheriff's office pyramid is the uniform division," he said. "Those guys out there on the front line are the ones who are crucial to a department's operations. I think the Lee Sheriff's Office has gotten out of wack; the pyramid is so top-heavy it has started to tilt."
Cheshire also said the current sheriff has failed to seek and acquire grants available to offset budget shortfalls. And he chided Rachals for having an all-terrain vehicle that he said could better serve EMS or fire/rescue.
"I'm afraid our sheriff's office is now in the mindset of meeting their wants rather than meeting their needs," Cheshire said.
Other platform items Cheshire has taken to Lee County voters is development of an active drug education program, incorporating a multitask Special Operations Unit to help in the fight against drugs, involving citizens in the community in a Sheriff's Citizens Academy and restructuring the department to help cut administrative costs.
"For three years, there has been no real drug education program in Lee County," Cheshire said. "I have children in our school system, and I know there are pills available in the schools. By utilizing a K-9 unit as part of a Special Operations team, we'll be able to reach the kids, to actually show them how drug usage can harm them.
"I also plan to let drug dealers know that if they plan to travel through and sell drugs in this county, we're not going to make it easy for them."
Cheshire said he envisions six- to eight-week Sheriff's Citizens Academy training sessions that will educate members of the public on various aspects of law enforcement. He said he hopes to incorporate self-defense classes into the training.
"You look at what happened with that young man (Trayvon Martin) in Florida and the man in the neighborhood watch program (George Zimmerman) who shot him," he said. "That's a perfect example of what better training could prevent.
"I give Reggie props for his women's firearms class; that's one thing he's done right. I'd like to expand that class to include men as well. We could do a lot of the training in-house and bring in other officials -- from the district attorneys office, from DEFACS -- to educate the public."
Before it's even asked, Cheshire offers an answer to a question he says he's hit with frequently on the campaign trail.
"People are asking me, 'Are you going to fire anyone'?" he says. "I am not going to make any promises that no one will be fired; that's what Sheriff Rachals did, and it turned out that he didn't keep that promise. People don't forget that kind of thing.
"I will say that I believe in giving everyone a chance, but if I don't see that certain officers can be used in a realigned administration and aren't willing to work with us, then, yes, I believe it would be in the best interest of the department and the county to fire those persons."
Cheshire said he promises to be a "front-line" as well as a behind-the-scenes sheriff if elected.
"I want to head a sheriff's department that the people of this county can be proud of," he said. "As I've campaigned out in the community and met and talked with more and more citizens, it's dawned on me that my primary concern is not about me getting elected. It's about the people, about meeting their expectations.
"I find it interesting that since I've made my platform public, the sheriff's department is trying to incorporate some of my ideas. They've gone three years without some of these things, and now they're trying to rush them in in three or four months. But the people see these things. They know."