Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has reclaimed the office he lost in the 2008 election but how long he will serve is uncertain because he will have 32 felony charges pending against him when he takes his oath on Jan. 1.
Democrat Hill took almost three-quarters of the votes cast in the Clayton County sheriff’s race in which his only competition was a write-in candidate, Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Garland Watkins who began running for the office two months ago.
Hill won an August Democratic primary runoff againt incumbent Kem Kimbrough, who defeated him four years ago. The two finished at the top of a field of nine Democrats. There was no Republican running.
Hill’s state certification to be a law enforcement officers was suspended when he was indicted in January, which means he cannot make arrests or serve warrants. Also, the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association will be pushing the governor to suspend him until he is tried some time next year.
Still, many residents believed Hill made the county safer when he was sheriff and that the criminal charges against him were politically-motivated.
“I liked the way he (Hill) took authority when he was sheriff. Clayton was much safer then and residents knew he wasn’t going to tolerate foolishness,”said Paulette Gildersleeve of Riverdale who voted for him Tuesday.
Watkins covered the county with signs and supporters were posted around early voting sites with instructions on voting for a write-in candidate. But he didn’t have the name recognition to pull off a late-in-the-game campaign against Hill.
“I couldn’t remember (Watkins’) name,” said Cynthia Richmond, who did not vote for sheriff Tuesday because she didn’t want to mark the box for Hill.
Hill was indicted in January on 37 felonies, including racketeering. He was accused of spending 2008 re-election campaign funds on himself, using his government-issued cars and credit card for personal reasons and requiring his staff to work at campaign events when they were on county time.
The trial was to have started Nov. 26 but it was delayed when prosecutors appealed the dismissal of two racketeering charges and three theft by taking counts.
Hill, who paid for his campaign in part with a $19,500 loan from himself, did not respond to emailed and text messages Tuesday night seeking comment. He has promised to be aggressive in a second term but without some of the controversy of his first four years.
Hill fired 27 people and had them escorted out of the building with snipers on the roof his first day, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle their lawsuits.
Hill used a tank in drug raids, and fought with local police chiefs and county commissioners over territory.