HIAWASSEE, Ga. – FYN sat down with Linda J. Curtis, candidate for Towns County sheriff, Jan. 7, to disseminate the retired law enforcement officer’s plans if elected to office in November. Curtis served a total of 17 years as a police officer in Florida prior to relocating to Towns County. Curtis intends to run on the Republican Party ticket, stating that she has been a Republican for the past 35 years.
“The first thing that I want to do is move this agency into tomorrow,” Curtis said. “You know that old cliche, ‘if you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on keeping what you’ve always gotten?’ It seems like every candidate that runs, runs on the same thing. Drugs are important here. They’re a problem in this county, but they’re a problem in every county…But there’s a lot of other problems here than just focusing on drugs. We need to give drugs 100-percent attention, no doubt, but we also have about 15 other problems that need attention also. Every candidate seems to be saying the same thing. Drugs are a problem here. They are, but what about all of the other problems that we have?” Curtis continued, explaining that an “administrative foundation” is needed within the sheriff’s office. “And we need to start caring about each other as a community.”
When asked what is working well within the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, and what could benefit from improvement, Curtis said that deputies are “on top” of the drug problem. “I think they’re taking the trash out. I think they are maintaining. I think the deputies are probably doing the best they can with the tools that they’re given right now,” the sheriff’s candidate explained. “When (retiring Sheriff) Chris (Clinton) came in, he started the CLEA. He kind of got community policing going. He went after the drugs. But we never really moved forward from that. If we keep electing the same mentality we’ll be right back here in four years because we have to work on everything. We have to work on community policing. We have to work on investigations.”
Curtis stated that if elected, she plans to build upon the Citizen Law Enforcement Academy (CLEA) program, additionally implementing a student police academy for 5th and 6th-grade students if the funding is available. More so, the sheriff’s contender listed better communication between the sheriff’s office and Towns County 911 dispatch as an area in need of improvement, as well as advanced training for emergency dispatchers.
FYN asked Curtis, who ran as an Independent sheriff’s candidate due to her residency status in 2016, her current thoughts on accepting a controversial endorsement from the Victory Fund four years prior. The Victory Fund strives to elect openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender candidates to political offices throughout America. Curtis called the endorsement the nail in her 2016 campaign coffin, adding that she is not a gay activist as accused by the then-GOP county chairman. “I would definitely want to move the agency into tomorrow,” Curtis said, however. “I don’t know if I would quite use the word progressive, but we have to move it forward.” In a region that undeniably leans toward conservatism, the sheriff’s contestant claimed that she faced harassment during the 2016 election cycle due to her orientation.
Presumingly referencing fellow candidate Daren Osborn, who has publicly vowed to serve as a “working sheriff” if elected, Curtis stated that the community deserves more.
“It’s not throwing on a gold badge and riding around in a patrol car. That’s not what being sheriff means to me. And I know this is probably going to upset people, but any monkey can be a working sheriff. Any monkey can jump off the road and say we’re going to work on drugs. But we’ve got so many other problems there,” Curtis said. “A working sheriff is great, but we need better than a working sheriff. We need an everything sheriff. We need to be good at admin, community policing, investigations, and we need to get out from behind the desk. We need to be in good physical condition. If my deputies are going to get out there and run a mile, by God, I need to run a mile too.”
Curtis said that her 11 years serving with Altamonte Police Department provided her with the training and experience to take office as Towns County’s next sheriff, describing the Florida agency as “very busy with high crime and high pressure.”
“As far as being a candidate for sheriff, does it make me a better cop? Not necessarily,” Curtis said. “Does it make me better able to handle a crisis? Absolutely because I’ve been in it.”
The sheriff’s candidate listed volunteer work with the local Lions Club, VFW, and the Lake Chatuge clean-up project as community service endeavors, encouraging other candidates to likewise “show what they’ve done to make the county better.”
Curtis resides in Hiawassee with partner, Debbie. The recently-wedded couple relocated to the area in 2010, becoming full-time residents in 2014.
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