By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — Former Clayton County sheriff's candidate and Chief Deputy Garland Watkins called it quits Friday to join the district attorney's office as an investigator.
Watkins, 50, spent more than 25 years with the Clayton County Sheriff's Office and was chief deputy under former Sheriff Kem Kimbrough. When Kimbrough lost a re-election bid last summer, Watkins entered the sheriff's race as a write-in candidate to take on Victor Hill.
Hill, 48, is under a 32-count felony indictment and is set to go to trial Aug. 5. He faces years in prison if convicted and likely ousting from office if convicted on one felony charge.
It was awkward working under his former campaign foe, said Watkins. When Hill took office in January, he didn't fire 27 deputies as he had when he first took office in January 2005 — Watkins was one of those deputies.
However, Watkins and other veteran deputies who didn't support Hill were basically stripped of their authority and put on an overnight shift. Some have too much time invested in the department and are too close to retirement to leave without forfeiting benefits.
Watkins said he is taking a cut in pay but he is unwilling to accept the situation under Hill.
"I feel like I'm getting into a better work environment," he said Friday.
A "Grady baby," the term given to folks born at Atlanta's historic Grady Memorial Hospital, Watkins graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. He also attended Morris Brown College.
During last year's campaign, Watkins said he wanted to move the county forward and out of the negative media spotlight.
"I want to restore Clayton County's reputation to one of the finest counties in the state of Georgia," he said. "Also, I want to restore the reputation of the sheriff's office as being the most professional law enforcement agency in the state. I chose to run to give the residents of Clayton County a choice."
Watkins starts his new job as investigator for the Clayton County District Attorney's Office Monday.