Voters overwhelmingly elected Jeff Mann as DeKalb County sheriff Tuesday, rejecting a political comeback attempt by former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones.
Mann, a lawyer who has worked in the sheriff’s office since 2001, defeated Jones by a 3-to-1 margin in the runoff election, collecting convincing majorities across the county.
Mann said voters supported him regardless of their backgrounds or whether they lived in the north or south parts of the county.
“They were voting for experience, integrity, inclusion and professionalism,” Mann said amid cheers during a victory party at a Tucker restaurant. “Voters saw through the divisive tactics he (Jones) put out there.”
Jones, a charismatic but polarizing figure, led DeKalb County for two terms until 2009. This was his third electoral loss since leaving the CEO’s office, having previously sought U.S. House and U.S. Senate seats.
Many voters said they were voting against Jones as much as they were voting for Mann.
“My preference was anyone other than Vernon Jones. I have a bad impression of him,” said Josephine Wooley after voting at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Ellenwood.
Another voter, Amanda Rittenhouse, said she thought Jones was in the race to regain a foothold in politics.
“I think he’s just counting on name recognition, and he doesn’t have experience in law enforcement,” said voter Amanda Rittenhouse. “He’s just looking for a job.”
Mann was chief deputy under former Sheriff Thomas Brown until Brown resigned after 14 years in office to run for Congress. This was Mann’s first election since taking over as sheriff in February.
Mann said he would improve public safety and reduce employee turnover, in part by paying sheriff’s department employees better. Detention officers received an 8 percent raise this year, an increase Mann said he fought to attain.
Mann and Jones emerged as the two finalists for the sheriff’s office following an eight-candidate election in May.
Each candidate claimed he was the one who could clean up corruption in DeKalb County, where several former sheriffs had their careers end following criminal inquiries.
The department is most well known for the killing of Sheriff-elect Derwin Brown in December 2000, three days before he was to take office. The defeated incumbent, Sheriff Sidney Dorsey, was convicted of ordering Brown’s killing.
The sheriff is responsible for running the county jail, protecting the courthouse, serving warrants and managing a $76 million budget.
Jones had said that if he were elected, he would have reassigned administrative officers to crime-fighting duties.
That idea didn’t sit well with voter Al Kemp.
“It’s clear from this campaign he doesn’t know what the sheriff’s department is all about,” Kemp said. “We don’t need some clown running around in a cowboy hat.”