Eastman police chief took scenic route to top

The Eastman Police Department has a new leader, a 32-year department veteran who was sworn in as the city’s first female chief Monday.

The Eastman City Council unanimously approved the appointment of Becky Sheffield, an Eastman native.

Sheffield, 56, said she joined the police department in 1977, never expecting to wear a uniform.

“I came to work here as a secretary,” Sheffield said Monday from the downtown Eastman office where she has served as the interim police chief since December 2007.

Furman Wiggins, her predecessor, took a leave of absence from the position after falling ill more than a year ago.

A 1971 graduate of Dodge County High School, Sheffield said when a spot on the force opened nearly a decade after she began working in the department, she decided to get law enforcement training.

“I became certified as a police officer in 1985. The job became available and they needed a female. I was the first woman certified in Dodge County,” she said.

Sheffield said as one of the few female police chiefs in Georgia, she will promote diversity on her staff, but training will be her top priority.

“What I’m looking for are qualifications,” she said.

There are no female officers in the Eastman Police Department, which employs 10 full-time officers and one part-time officer, said Bea Edge, Eastman’s interim city manager.

The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office employs two female deputies.

Edge, who last year became the first woman to manage the Eastman city government, said Sheffield has a strong record of service to residents.

“She’s very dedicated. She puts in long, hard hours and has a good staff,” Edge said. “She supports her staff and, of course, her staff supports her.”

Sheffield, who has an adult son who lives in Eastman with his wife, said she also wants to improve the department’s community policing initiatives and focus on drugs in the city.

“I really enjoy working with the public,” she said. “We really will be working with the Drug Task Force more and the Community Task Force to go into the communities and have a stronger presence.”

To contact writer Ashley Tusan Joyner, call 744-4347.