October 28, 2012

Candidate profiles: Stafford wants restoration of services

Jim Stafford has been sheriff of Whitfield County before, and he wants his old job back.


“Just seeing that so many things have changed from the way they used to be, and a lot of the programs that I had put in place are not existent anymore, one of them being the reserve officer program where we used retired officers to supplement the force,” he said.

Stafford, a Republican, is running against Democratic incumbent Sheriff Scott Chitwood in the Nov. 6 election, making a bid for public office for the first time since the 1980s. Stafford was elected as sheriff in 1984, then defeated four years later by W.G. Tallent, a man for whom Chitwood went to work after a brief hiatus from the department.

Stafford, a Floyd County native, has lived in Whitfield County since 1969 and has been a patrol officer with the Dalton Police Department and a deputy sheriff/investigator with the sheriff’s office. Since 1988, he has worked as director of public safety for Hamilton Medical Center, then as corporate security manager with Beaulieu of America for the last 23 years. He served in the Army from 1965 through 1968 and was part of the military police, but he said was not called to go to Vietnam.

Among the changes Stafford said he wants to make if elected are looking for “innovative ways” to bring the department’s wages in line with what Dalton police officers receive, expanding community education programs like DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) to include firearms safety training and synthetic drugs education, developing a burglary task force, and increasing the number of deputies assigned to the drug unit by decreasing the number assigned to traffic enforcement.

Stafford said he’ll look for ways to get computers in all the office’s patrol cars. He also believes the way to combat drugs is to assign more people to enforcement by close to doubling the staff of five.

“It’s more important to reduce the burglaries than it is to write traffic tickets in my book,” he said. “Drugs are taking over our society. They’re the main cause of all the additional burglaries. With the economy, drugs are what fuels the burglaries and the thefts.”

He said he doesn’t plan to increase staff.

Stafford questions whether the 287(g) program — a federal program in which the sheriff’s office can check an individual’s immigration status when the person is in jail for a state crime — is needed and saves the department money. He said he does believe in enforcing immigration laws.

“My opinion of that is we are a nation of laws, and everybody should abide by the laws,” he said.

Although he said he isn’t sure exactly how he wants to do it, he said he’ll work with the 911 center and others to look at ways to reduce the response time to calls. He said he also wants to see if it’s possible to expand the department’s school resource officer program to have deputies in more schools more often.

Stafford said he also wants to clarify that he does support a jail ministry despite rumors to the contrary. He said he also supports the merit system, which allows employees who are fired or disciplined to go through a grievance process.

Stafford received a degree in criminal justice from Dalton College in 1978 and is a graduate of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent School where he said he received the Distinguished Student award.

He said when he was sheriff before, he implemented the first computer system used by the sheriff’s office, developed the first DUI task force in Whitfield County, initiated the first use of video cameras in patrol cars, implemented a hot line for reporting drug crimes and developed a training program for deputies to include a firearms training center near Prater’s Mill.

He is junior vice commander of a local chapter of the American Legion, and he’s a member of the Gold Wing Road Riders motorcycle association and a member of a Harley owners group. He is married to Diane Newton Stafford and has two sons — Chris and Chad — and two grandchildren.

His home phone number is (706) 278-0046 and his email address is jimstafford4sheriff@gmail.com.

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