DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Two potential challengers for Dawson County Sheriff in 2020 have emerged. Jeff Perry, a veteran parole officer, officially tossed his hat into the ring last week and Capt. Marcus Sewell, Chief of the Investigations Division in Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office, is expected to announce his campaign next week.
Perry ran against Johnson in the 2016 election and finished third in a four-candidate race. He, of course, hopes to do better this time around.
In making his announcement last week, Perry said, “I am running for Sheriff to serve the citizens of Dawson County because there is nothing more important to me than keeping our families safe, and bringing capable leadership to the top law enforcement position in the county.”
Sewell has not made an official announcement but there are campaign-style signs appearing on social media that indicate he soon will. He is a veteran law enforcement officer widely known in Dawson County. He is a graduate of Dawson County High School and served as a deputy for longtime Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle.
Johnson has had a troubled first term as sheriff. In his first year he sued the Board of Commissioners in an effort to get more money for his 2018 budget. He lost the lawsuit and alienated county commissioners and other county officials in the process. Most of them have said privately they want to see Johnson defeated.
Commissioners have also been angered by Johnson’s insistence on hiring someone to handle sheriff’s office finances, a service the county could provide at no additional cost to taxpayers.
The new candidates are almost certain to attack Johnson on his wasteful spending. The unsuccessful lawsuit cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Embarrassingly, Johnson learned at the end of that budget year, he had nearly $500,000 remaining that he failed to spend. That money could have been used to give deputies a well-deserved pay raise. Instead, it went back into the county’s general fund.
Johnson has also attracted a great deal of negative publicity for personnel issues within the sheriff’s office. For example, in 2018 three detention officers were arrested – two for domestic violence issues and another for unlawful sexual relationship with a female prisoner. That same year, an entire night patrol of on-duty officers was discovered playing badminton and leaving the county unprotected. And, in May 2019, a computer aided dispatch report showed that one sergeant refused to report to the scene of an accident for more than six hours.
The election is still a year away, but the campaign is right around the corner.
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