February 11, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---He's Augusta's top cop, responsible for more than 700 employees and a budget of nearly $50 million.
We've seen him so many times over the years in his official capacity as Richmond County Sheriff...but what's Sheriff Ronnie Strength really like?
Is he grooming someone to be the next sheriff, like he was groomed by the sheriff before him, Charlie Webster?
And what was it like providing security for James Brown's funeral, one of the biggest events ever in the city?
"It was a great success for us," Sheriff Strength said. "We did not have a single incident. We're talking 10,000 people down there, everything set up in three days, and not a single incident we had to respond to where there was a problem."
Richard Rogers: "What was it like providing security for Michael Jackson?"
Ronnie Strength: "We got him in, got him out. It was pretty easy. People were great too. They knew it was a funeral, not a concert for Michael Jackson but a funeral for James Brown and his family. People took note of that and that made it easy for us."
RR: "Was he wearing a bullet proof vest?"
RS: "No, he wasn't. We got him out of the car, in and out. Several of us were close enough to take care of any problems that came up."
RR: "We have celebrities here every year. Talk about security for the Masters."
RS: "We do a lot of behind-the-scenes things we do not discuss for security reasons. People know it's going on...they just don't know where it's going on."
RR: "I can't remember a more serious crime involving a player than Tom Lehman and the gunshot fired into his car last year. What was going through your mind that night?"
RS: "Of course, when we identified who it was, we had to find out if he was a target or a random shooting where he just happened to be in the car."
Turns out it was random. A close call for this veteran sheriff, who admits he was groomed for the job by former sheriff Charlie Webster.
RR: "Are you doing that for someone else? Who's next in line?"
RS: "You know, I haven't...six years off is a very long time. There are some great guys in the agency that could come in, be elected and do a great job."
RR: "Do you think we'll see a black sheriff follow you?"
RS: "Sure, absolutely. I've got three or four black officers who would make excellent sheriffs if they want to be sheriff."
And what about the woman behind the badge?
That would be Patti Strength.
She worked in Charlie Webster's office years before her husband became sheriff.
RR: "Every law enforcement family handles this differently, but how do you handle the danger of his job?"
Patti Strength: "I just don't think about it...that's about the best thing you can do."
RR: "You're not a worrier?"
PS: "No, no."
RR: "Kiss him and send him off?"
PS: "That's it. 'See you later.'"
But for Patti and Ronnie Strength, "later" means the LEC. Patti works for the juvenile courts.
RR: "How is it working in the same building together?"
PS: "It's fine. He's on the second floor and I'm on the first, so we see each other at lunchtime. We go to lunch together, that's it."
Patti says the lawman we all know is a different man at home, lounging in his favorite chair with his faithful friend, "Tanner".
"A lot of people don't know...he likes to cut up. He's witty. He does have a softer side nobody sees."
We appreciate Ronnie and Patti Strength sharing that slice of home life with the rest of us.
As for his future?
Ronnie Strength will run for sheriff one more time when his term ends next year, so retirement for him would be six years away.