October 29, 2012

Candidate profile: Ensley wants to continue ‘proven’ leadership

Murray County Sheriff Howard Ensley has been in office 24 years and has spent almost his entire career at the sheriff’s office.

A Democrat, Ensley is seeking another four years as he squares off in the Nov. 6 election against Republican Gary Langford, a retired law officer who has worked for the sheriff’s office, Georgia State Patrol and Chatsworth Police Department.

Ensley began his law enforcement career at the sheriff’s office in 1974, shortly after graduating in 1973 from Murray County High School. He said he knew from an early age he wanted a job in law enforcement. He went on to graduate from the Georgia Police Academy and the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.

“I promise the citizens of Murray County to serve the common needs and goals of all the citizens by operating a reliable, effective, hard-working sheriff’s department that the citizens of Murray County can depend on and be very proud of,” Ensley said. “I want to continue to be a proven, honest, dedicated leader. With the experience we have, I feel like we can continue with that.”

The sheriff’s office suffered some damage to its reputation earlier this year when two employees were fired for, according to Ensley, giving false statements in an investigation being conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. GBI officials were called in after a woman who claimed former chief magistrate Bryant Cochran solicited her for sexual favors was arrested by the two deputies on a drug charge. Officials later said the drugs were planted on her vehicle. Ensley said an investigation into Cochran and other issues associated with the case — including Cochran’s own admission that he pre-signed, though never issued, a handful of warrants — is almost complete.

He said none of his employees ever issued a pre-signed warrant, and he doesn’t expect the proceedings in a federal grand jury to reveal anything that would cause him to need to dismiss another officer.

Ensley said he’s concentrating now on combating drug offenses, utilizing the new section of the jail, and maintaining the department.

Shortly after Ensley completed high school, he was hired as a dispatcher and jailer at the sheriff’s office, working his way up to deputy sheriff, later to captain, and finally to chief deputy before being elected sheriff. He also worked short stints at the Chatsworth Police Department and Dalton Police Department, he said.

He is married to Regina Ogle Ensley and has two daughters — Melissa Thurman and Mandy Newton. He has three grandchildren.

The sheriff’s office has grown from 30 employees when he was first elected to 67 employees now. The annual budget for the office is about $1.5 million while the jail budget is also about $1.5 million, he said.

Ensley said when he first came to work for the office, there were road deputies and two detectives. Since then, he said he’s added jail administration, school resource officers, a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program, a program in which the office can notify the closest 1,000 homes within a community where a person has gone missing with an automated phone call, and an inmate labor program that picks up an average of 10,000 pounds of litter each month. Ensley said he’s also proud of the drug dog the office has as well as the office’s efforts to stay on top of any gang issues that arise.

Ensley is on numerous boards, including the board of directors for Cherokee Estate and Mountain View Boys Homes as well as the Dalton Police Academy. He is a member of the state and national jail associations as well as several civic organizations.

“I’ve had many members of the community asking me to run again, that with my leadership they feel like we can continue growing,” Ensley said. “It’s just been a good tenure.”

Ensley can be reached at (706) 695-2994. His email address is howardensley@gmail.com.

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