Scott Chitwood, Whitfield County’s long-time sheriff, is here to stay for four more years after besting his rival, former sheriff Jim Stafford, by more than 6,000 votes on Tuesday.
Unofficial results, not counting provisional ballots, show Chitwood, a Democrat, received 16,326 votes (62.22 percent) to Republican Stafford’s 9,914 votes (37.78 percent) with all precincts reporting. Chitwood has been in office since 1993.
From a surprise party some of his supporters held for him at Dalton Shrine Club No. 5 Tuesday night, Chitwood said he was “very pleased with the showing of support and very proud of the outcome.”
“Our pledge is to continue providing service to the public,” he said.
A lifelong law enforcement officer, Chitwood touted his record during the campaign, describing his efforts over the years to mold the office into a more professional organization. He cited initiatives to become part of the Conasauga Safe Streets Task Force and enrolling in the federal 287(g) program to allow sheriff’s deputies to check the immigration status of individuals in custody as examples of needed changes he’s spearheaded while in office.
Stafford, a corporate security manager for Beaulieu of America, campaigned on a plan to return the sheriff’s office to practices he used when he held the office from 1984-1988. Among the changes he said he wanted to make were increasing the number of deputies assigned to the drug unit by decreasing the number assigned to traffic enforcement. He also touted plans for a community firearms safety program and the development of a burglary task force.
Stafford thanked those who voted for and supported him.
“The majority of the voters of Whitfield County decided that they liked the way the sheriff’s office is run, so we’ll pick up and go from there,” Stafford said.
Chitwood easily won the 2008 election, too, with roughly 55 percent of the vote against former sheriff’s office deputy and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Claude Nix.