Sheriff kicks off campaign

By Ed Brock

Barbara and Albert Sosebee of Riverdale were among the last people to leave Clayton County Sheriff Stanley Tuggle's re-election campaign kickoff party.

"I knew him when he was a deputy," Albert Sosebee said.

The Sosebees and more than 100 other people came out for the party Thursday night in the exhibition hall at the Atlanta State Farmers Market in Forest Park. They walked away well fed, well entertained by a live band and sporting stickers shaped like a sheriff's star that endorsed their candidate of choice.

In an election in November 2004 Tuggle will face at least two opponents, Clayton County Police Department Detective and state Rep. Victor Hill, D-College Park, and Joe Mack Eckler, who is also in the Clayton County Police Department. If Tuggle wins it would be his third term as sheriff.

The sheriff said it's his experience that gives him the edge over his opponents.

"This is my 30th year with the Sheriff's Office," Tuggle said. "I started out as a jailer and worked all the way to sheriff."

Thursday's party was held to let people know he was running and to gather support, Tuggle said. There to lend him that support were state Sen. Terrell Starr, D-Jonesboro; Forest Park City Council members Corine Deyton and Wes Lord; Clayton County District Attorney Bob Keller and Clayton County Board of Education member Ericka Davis.

"I think he's doing a great job," Davis said. "He's done a lot of programs for children and that's important. He's very much in the community. He's a visible sheriff."

The challenge ahead for Tuggle or his successor will be handling a growing jail population. That job could be made more difficult by cutbacks in the county and state budgets, Tuggle said.

"If they close prisons and diversion centers like they're talking about doing they won't have anywhere else to go," Tuggle said.

That would be a statewide problem. Locally, the Clayton County jail has the bed space, Tuggle said, but the Sheriff's Office needs to have the staff to run the jail efficiently.

In June Tuggle had requested more than 100 additional employees, including 90 correctional officers, but the Clayton County Board of Commissioners only approved 12 new positions.