Candidates: Communication, experience keys

Published 12:54 am Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Experience and communication are two words both candidates for Covington County Sheriff have been using a lot as next week’s primary approaches.

Incumbent Dennis Meeks said his unique background gives him the upper hand in the experience category.

“Experience is the main thing,” he said. “That’s what I’ve always ran on. I’m the only sheriff in the history of Covington County that has worked in every division in the sheriff’s office. I started in the jail; I’ve been a patrol officer, and I served as chief deputy. I have served as sheriff for eight years, and have been in law enforcement for 21.”

But challenger Chris Byrd also lists experience as one of his biggest strengths.

“I started out as a reserve officer in Gantt,” Byrd said. “I was hired in 1999 by Gantt as a patrol officer. In 2000, I was hired by the Covington County Sheriff’s Office, where I worked until 2011, including working with the Drug Task Force. I was also part-time police chief in Gantt.”

Both candidates also point to an open line of communication with county residents as a must for a successful sheriff’s office, but look to slightly different methods to accomplish that goal.

“It’s all about how you deal with people,” Meeks said. “I have an open-door policy. You have to be open so people can come in and feel comfortable with you. You have to have a good relationship with the public.”



Byrd said he would utilize planned public meetings as a way to stay in touch with the public.

“Community meetings give the community a chance to actually come out and express their likes and dislikes of the sheriff’s office and help us to improve the way we are doing things,” he said. “As sheriff, we would start these meetings quarterly and they will continue the entire time I’m in office. If that’s too stretched out, we’ll go to monthly meetings if that’s what the community wants.”

Byrd also said communication is important when it comes to victims of crimes.

“We have to have more communication with victims to make sure cases are being worked as best they can be. If we need to pull some of the hats off people and have them strictly doing investigations, we just want all of the cases worked as best they can, and we have a great group of investigators.”

Meeks said he hopes voters remember that experience will count in a job that can change daily.


“You never really know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Two years ago, (the legislature) tried to pass a gun bill the Sheriff’s Association was really against. They tried to amend it this past year. Luckily, it didn’t pass. When you go to work one day to the next, you don’t really know what’s going to happen or what you’re going to have to deal with. You’ve got to be able to change with the wind and go with the flow.”

Meeks also point to his background in managing the office as another of his strengths.

“We actually deal with tow different budgets,” he said. “The jail and the sheriff’s office. If you combine them, it’s about $3 million. You need a background in managing money and employees.”

Byrd and Meeks will appear on the Republican ballot in the primary election held Tue., June 3. As no one qualified for the Democratic primary, the primary winner will take the oath of office as sheriff in January.