Eight months after qualifying opened, Troup County knows who its next sheriff will be.
Republican James Woodruff defeated Democratic opponent Ruben Hairston, 6,654 to 4,243 in a general election runoff Tuesday.
“I didn’t do it,” Woodruff said, gathered with supporters late Tuesday. “We did.”
Woodruff first thanked his family, then everyone who assisted him with the campaign.
“Everyone has played a vital role,” he said, from backers who went door to door campaigning, went with him to political forums, sent letters of endorsement to local media or simply prayed he would win.
Hairston, who said he would not immediately decide whether to seek office again, thanked his supporters and those who voted for him.
“I’m not happy with the turnout,” he said. “We just didn’t get the support we needed.”
Woodruff had to win four elections to take the sheriff’s job, starting with the July 31 primary. That resulted in a runoff Aug. 21 between Woodruff and outgoing sheriff Donny Turner.
The Nov. 6 general election pitted Woodruff against Hairston and independent Clay Bryant, which led to Tuesday’s Woodruff-Hairston runoff.
The last month of the primary campaign earlier this year had turned divisive. Turner was caught on tape threatening the current job of a former employee of the sheriff’s office who he had found out was campaigning for Woodruff.
It also was revealed that up to $300,000 in bail bond forfeitures had gone uncollected in the sheriff’s office over the last 10 years when the Daily News requested the information from state court Judge Jeanette Little. Turner and Troup County Clerk of Court Jackie Taylor, who aided in the collection process, insisted they had done nothing wrong and District Attorney Pete Skandalakis said nothing illegal had happened. But documentation obtained by the Daily News showed Turner and Taylor avoided any attempts to sit down and discuss the bond issue with county attorneys and state court officials.
Before the Republican runoff, a political action committee named Troup Mothers for a Safe Community formed on Aug. 8 and sent out a flier with false information about Woodruff. It was revealed that week after former state Rep. Jeff Brown did an open records request that former state Sen. Dan Lee, who is Turner and Taylor’s attorney, paid the registration fee for the Mothers group with the Georgia Secretary of State.
Woodruff has been working as the business manager at the Troup County Correctional Institution. He has 20 years’ experience in law enforcement as a jailer, deputy, patrol supervisor, public information officer, jail administrator and chief deputy. He was an adviser for the sheriff’s office explorer post, which was a program designed for young people ages 14 to 21 who were interested in law enforcement.
As jail administrator, he was responsible for the daily operations of the jail and overseeing all inmates and jail personnel. As chief deputy, he was responsible for the daily operations of the entire sheriff’s office which included hiring new personnel and overseeing the departmental budget.
Results of Tuesday’s vote are unofficial until a canvass is complete.