Friday, March 8, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga -- Sheriff Ronnie Strength, who has spent 35 years in law enforcement, officially announced his retirement in a news conference Friday afternoon.
"I don't know if I could sit here right now and say I should do this," said Sheriff Ronnie Strength. "I still have reservations."
News 12 snagged an exclusive dinner reservation with Sheriff Strength on Thursday.
"I've been under a lot of pressure. I have had a lot of folks calling me," he said. "Sending me notes. Sending me letters."
We sat down with the 35-year law enforcement veteran to get the scoop on his future plans, and we got a whole lot more.
"I can't believe you. You don't have any dressing on your salad," I exclaimed.
"No," replied the sheriff.
"You just eat dry salad?" I asked.
"It's not dry," said Strength with a straight face.
Sheriff Strength says he has never tried salad dressing.
"This is perfect just like it is," said the sheriff about his salad. "Put a little salt on it, and it is good."
This sets the tone for what was a far-reaching conversation high above the city of Augusta at The Pinnacle Club.
"Am I concerned for this community?" Strength said. "Absolutely I am."
Sheriff Strength has made it his mission to protect and serve this very community that nurtured him from a child.
"I don't take vacations. I don't take time off," he said. "I think I've had two sick days in 35 years."
At age 66, the sheriff feels it may be time to slow down, but his wife Patti Strength reminds him that he has held a job since he was 13 years old.
"She thinks all of a sudden I would be a couch potato and watch television all day," Strength said. "But I do have some things that I want to do that I have never been able to do."
To say the sheriff is torn might be the understatement of the year.
"It is so difficult for me," said Strength. "I have had some very trying times."
But all signs point to an exit for the sheriff. He is now focused on deciding who to throw his support behind.
"So you're not going to sit on the sidelines?" we asked.
"Well I'm going to sit on the sidelines until the primary and let's see what happens," he said.
There is a reason for that game plan.
"I am in pickle. I really am," Strength said. "It's a good pickle, but I'm in a pickle."
There are two officers inside the agency who plan to run for sheriff.
"They're at work every day," said Strength. "One of them happened to be my brother-in-law."
Patti's brother, Lt. Robbie Silas, has his eye on the seat. But the sheriff's right-hand man has also suggested he will run for sheriff.
"If and when Sheriff Strength retires it is more likely than not you will see me become a candidate for that office," said Captain Scott Peebles.
This all makes for an interesting dynamic between husband and wife.
"Without a doubt she would definitely support her brother," Strength said. "I would expect that, but I would never let that alone make my decision. That's why I'm going to let the citizens make that decision, and then after the primary I'll get involved by the general election."
Strength said he hopes his family and the community will be understanding during this bittersweet time.
"I would hope they would see my side of it, and say look he has been there 35 years," Strength said. "He works day and night. He doesn't take time off. He's neglected his family because of this job, and we appreciate that. So we are going to respect and honor his decision."