Investigator challenges Crawford County sheriff for seat

bpurser@macon.comOctober 23, 2012 

  • Crawford County sheriff candidates

    Lewis S. Walker

    Age: 52
    Party: Democrat
    Occupation: Law enforcement
    Political experience: Four-year incumbent

    Tom Wallace
    Age: 58
    Party: Republican
    Occupation: Law enforcement
    Political experience: First run for office

The Crawford County sheriff’s race pits a first-term incumbent with 25 years of law enforcement experience against a sheriff’s investigator with nearly 21 years of military service plus almost eight years in law enforcement.

Democrat Lewis S. Walker, 52, who was elected to a four-year term in 2008, faces a challenge from Republican Tom Wallace, a 58-year-old sheriff’s investigator.

Walker won the seat vacated by the retirement of longtime Sheriff Kerry Dunaway, fending off opposition in the primary and general elections.

He’s worked in patrol at the sheriff’s office since December 1987. He was promoted to head of patrol in January 2006, the job he held when he won the sheriff’s post.

“It’s an honor to serve in the community I grew up in,” Walker said of seeking re-election. “I don’t take this lightly. ... I will work hard to keep the professionalism and integrity that this office has gained over the years.”

Wallace is seeking his first political office. He retired from the U.S. Air Force 19 years ago as a “missile handling shop chief” with the rank of tech sergeant. He next fished the pro bass circuit, moved to Crawford County from Alabama in 1999 following his wife’s career, earned an information technology degree at Macon State College and taught computer classes for a while.

Wallace joined the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office in February 2005 and worked at the jail. He came to the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office in October 2006, graduating law enforcement mandate school in March 2007 with a gold seal for a grade point average higher than 95. He was promoted to investigator by Walker in May 2009.

“I just think I have more to offer,” Wallace said of his bid for sheriff. “I know about running an organization and business and handling ... people.”

Walker said Crawford County residents have seen him grow into his role as sheriff, and he said he’s proven he can do the job based on his first term.

While he may not have as much law enforcement experience, Wallace said Walker doesn’t have his military experience. He also noted that in his nearly eight years as deputy, he’s advanced quickly. Wallace acknowledged not having the hometown advantage may prove challenging.

As sheriff, Walker said he used special purpose local option sales tax revenue to replace patrol car laptops and office computers, upgrade a VHS video camera system in patrol cars with a DVD system and used a grant to purchase four Taser stun guns. Walker also moved the department shift rotation to work three days, then off two days. The rotation provides a weekend off every other week, which boosted the morale of the younger deputies who enjoy being off on weekends, he said.

Wallace said he plans to implement a quarterly public forum where residents can voice their concerns, and he can report back on varied law enforcement initiatives.

“I want to hear that voice,” Wallace said. “I want to hear what their concerns are.”

Both candidates identified illegal drugs as a problem in Crawford County. Wallace said he would like to establish a drug education program within the schools.

Wallace also owns his own online company: Envision Lures, which manufactures bait for fishing.

Walker was asked about having someone under him oppose him. He said the job is up for grabs every four years, but there is a loyalty issue. He noted he did not run against Dunaway even when encouraged to do so. Walker said he removed himself from any oversight authority over Wallace during the campaign, with Wallace reporting to his division head and then the chief deputy.

When asked if he wins re-election, would he fire Wallace, Walker said, “I don’t want to jump up and say I would terminate him. But we will need to sit down and talk.”

Wallace said Walker told him he wouldn’t have a job if he ran against him. Wallace said he chose to face that risk and holds no animosity toward Walker.

If he wins, Wallace said Walker will have a job at the sheriff’s office if he wants it.

“I would let him stay as long as he wanted to,” said Wallace. “Lewis Walker has grown up in Crawford County, and he has over 20 years (at the sheriff’s office) ... just that experience alone is a valuable asset.”

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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