With a runoff for the Republican candidate still slated, Clay Bryant is joining the race for Troup County sheriff.
The man who helped bring the killers of Fred Wilkerson, Gwendolyn Moore, Paul McKeen, Vieng Phovixay and Jimmy Clark to justice will qualify today to run for sheriff as an independent in November.
Bryant needs 1,955 qualifying signatures and will be turning in about 2,600 Monday, the second step of qualifying.
“I’ve been involved in law enforcement for most of my working life and I feel like I bring a lot to the table,” he said. “I will bring new ideas and programs to the sheriff’s office that will see the office improve.”
He’s running as an independent because he believes the sheriff’s office shouldn’t have a political affiliation, Bryant, 57, said.
“Social and economic status should have nothing to do with the problems that are brought to the sheriff’s office,” he said. “There’s just right and wrong and the law. There shouldn’t be any inference that politics could project the outcome.”
Bryant, who ran unsuccessfully for coroner four years ago, was dubbed “Cold Case Clay” by the Atlanta Journal Constitution after his involvement in the unsolved murders of Wilkerson and Moore earned him national attention. He was the Coweta Judicial Circuit investigator who reopened the cases and found the killers. His work on the Wilkerson and Moore cases was chronicled on “48 Hours” and “Cold Case Files” and he was interviewed by Anne Coulter.
“Of those cases, there are now five people who are serving life terms in prison,” Bryant said. “People had forgotten those cases. As sheriff, I won’t forget.”
His law enforcement career began with the Georgia State Patrol as a radio operator and trooper. From 1981 to 1992 he was the Hogansville chief of police, where he also earned paramedic certification and was a paramedic instructor.
He worked for the private sector for eight years before working for the district attorney from 2002 to 2006. He has spent the last six years as the Georgia Public Defender investigator.
He graduated from Woodrow Wilson College of Law in 1980 and he and his wife Beth have five children, Frank, Mary Beth, Ashley, Emily and Clayton. He’s been a volunteer coach with Troup County Parks and Recreation, a wrestling referee with the Georgia High School Athletic Association and drove the bus for Troup County Schools’ athletic trips.
Bryant was named one of the top 10 cold case investigators in the nation in the book “Justice Delayed,” by Jack Branson. He’s also been recognized by the Naval Criminal Investigative Services as one of the most prolific cold case investigators.
If elected, Bryant will bring proactive and fair law enforcement to all parts of the county, he said. He’ll restructure the department to improve coverage and visibility and bring back resource officers to middle and high schools that are located in the county.
“I will dedicate more resources to drug enforcement, because drugs relate to the majority of other crimes,” he said.
Bryant also wants to improve the department’s relationships with other law enforcement jurisdictions in Troup County and adjoining areas and encourage and reward professional training in the department. He also will offer his facilities for training by other law enforcement agencies, like the Troup County marshal’s office.
He also will “provide complete transparency” with the department’s budget, providing an annual report on what’s done with money confiscated through drug seizures. He will support the schools with security and improve security at the jail for employees and inmates.
“I will work diligently and creatively with the county to improve services with as little cost to the taxpayers as possible,” he said.
Bryant said he will also have deputies enforce traffic laws around the county and assist the state patrol with response to simple, non-injury accidents.
“I will be everyone’s sheriff, every day,” he said. “I will be responsive to the people and actively seek justice, as my history reflects.”