February 9, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---He controls a budget of $49 million and more than 700 employees, including a small army of 500 deputies.
But how much do you really know about Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength?
In a News 12 Special Assignment, we go one on one with Augusta's top cop.
For 30 years, he's made his career in law enforcement. Over those years you've seen him answering questions from across the desk, behind the podium at countless news conferences, and defending his budget before Augusta commissioners.
But chances are you've never seen him stretched out in his favorite chair with his faithful companion "Tanner", who is a long way from being a police dog.
Sheriff Strength and his wife Patti opened their home to News 12 to talk about a wide range of things, business and personal.
When it comes to fighting crime, one of Strength's biggest challenges is not convincing commissioners he needs more money...it's convincing potential recruits to consider law enforcement.
"Manpower is very difficult," he said. "We have 50 openings today.
"People don't want to get into this job anymore," he went on. "It's a difficult job, pay's not good, hours are long, you're often falsely accused...and these things keep people from wanting to get into law enforcement."
As for the sheriff's own career, he says he's never had second thoughts--even when his deputies get into trouble for posting inappropriate pictures and messages on the website MySpace, and even after telling state lawmakers that he sometimes dreads going to work.
Richard Rogers: "Let's talk about how the job affects you. I've read you dread going to work and I've heard you say you love your job. Which is it?"
Ronnie Strength: "Sometimes when you have problem after problem, you hate to get up some mornings, and I'm no different than anyone else. If I didn't enjoy the job, I wouldn't have been here 30 years."
30 years without taking more than a couple of days off at a time.
RR: "When was the last time you took a vacation?"
RS: "I don't know when I've taken a vacation since I've been sheriff. Three times a year, the max is two days. Prior to that, very seldom did I take a vacation."
RR: "Why is that?"
RS: "Well, I was on vacation every day while I was working. I enjoy going to work and doing the job, and I consider that a vacation."
It's just the kind of answer that might cause trouble at home...
Patti Strength: "It does to a point...but I guess I've lived with it so long, it doesn't bother me. I like to go to the beach...he doesn't. So I don't want to be miserable and I don't want him to be miserable out there."
RR: "So you agree to go to the beach and he agrees to go to the lake."
Patti Strength has deep ties to law enforcement too.
Coming up in Part 2, we'll have more about their marriage made at the LEC, plus: from security for Michael Jackson to a shooting involving a PGA pro, what was it like on the inside?