EASTMAN - Retired state trooper Jeff Hinson says his ultimate goal as Dodge County's new sheriff is simple.
"I'm the kind of person who tries to leave things better than I found it," Hinson said Wednesday, a day after unseating incumbent Lawton Douglass in a runoff.
Hinson, 51, brings to the office 32 years of experience with the Georgia State Patrol, having retired as captain of a unit that audited patrol posts around the state. He said he plans to focus on the county's drug problem and improving the response times and visibility of deputies, but will put off major changes until after meeting with staff and the county commissioners.
"I've got to get in there and see what we have to work with," he said. "It's time to get in there, access it and roll the sleeves up and get to work."
Hinson, a Republican, got 3,418 votes, or 53 percent of the ballots cast Tuesday. Douglass, who was seeking re-election to his second term, got 3,023 votes, or 47 percent.
Hinson said he decided to seek the sheriff's office after being encouraged to run by a number of residents.
"It was nothing against the sheriff who was in there. It wasn't anything personal," he said. "We just wanted the job."
Douglass did not return phone calls to his office Wednesday.
Almost 57 percent of the county's voters went to the polls for the runoff, according to the Dodge County probate judge 's office. Besides the sheriff's race, the ballot also included a runoff between two Eastman lawyers for a superior court judgeship.
In that race, Sarah Wall, a juvenile court judge for the Oconee Circuit, defeated Mike Johnson, a municipal judge in Eastman and Chauncey.
With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Wall had 9,473 votes to Johnson's 7,204, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's Office.
The circuit includes Dodge, Bleckley, Telfair, Pulaski, Wheeler and Montgomery counties. Two of those counties ‹ Dodge and Telfair ‹ are under investigation for alleged voting irregularities in the July primary. The Secretary of State's Office has refused to discuss the nature of the complaints.
The state is also looking into complaints, also from the primary, in Treutlen and Twiggs counties.
"All those investigations are still ongoing," Secretary of State spokersman Matt Carrothers said Wednesday.