REPUBLICANS

Neil Warren (incumbent)

Party: Republican

Office running for: Cobb County Sheriff

Job: Cobb County Sheriff

Previously held elected office: Incumbent Sheriff

Family: Wife Penny, Daughter Kim Warren, Daughter Liz Warren Malcom

University Name: Brenau

Military Service: None

Residence: Polo Club Dr., Marietta, Ga.

Where did you grow up? Marietta, Ga.

How long have you lived here? My entire life

1. Why are you the most qualified candidate for the position? 

Sheriff Warren.jpg

Neil Warren

I have been with the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office since 1977 where I started as a Deputy Sheriff. I was successfully promoted through the ranks of Sergeant, Lieutenant and Captain. I became Chief Criminal Investigator in 1984 and was promoted to Chief Deputy in 1994. I became Sheriff in 2004. I have held every position in the agency and these years of experience help me to see the whole picture when decisions have to be made. The job is not just about a gun and a badge anymore, you must possess political and legal skills in order to be successful as a Sheriff.

2. What is the greatest long-term challenge facing the community in which you seek to represent?

The greatest long-term challenges that we face are the continued issues of identifying and hiring qualified employees. Also, with respect to the jail there are the issues that include medical and mental health, being fully prepared for the next pandemic or other unforeseen emergency and of course the safety and security of our men and women who come to work every day to do their jobs bravely and selflessly. The citizens of Cobb County can always count on being our first priority. We took an oath to perform our Constitutional duties to keep them safe and we will never waver from that responsibility!

3. What is your solution to that challenge? 

The solution to these challenges is to continue to press the Board of Commissioners to find the funds to make us second to none in the ability to hire and compensate our employees. Finally, I have always engaged at the state level to be sure that our elected officials understand the difficulties associated with operating the detention facility. The state has to step up and supply an answer to the growing mental health problem all Sheriffs face. This can be met with funding, re-opening the mental health facilities and realizing that a jail is not a place for treatment of any illness.

DEMOCRATS 

Gregory B. Gilstrap

Party: Democratic Party

Office running for: Sheriff of Cobb County

Job: Police Officer

Previously held elected office: none

Family: Janie (spouse), married 37 years, 3 children

University's name and degree: Atlanta Area Tech

Military service: none

Residence: Austell, Georgia

Where did you grow up? Atlanta, Ga, Fulton County

How long have you lived here? Cobb County 34 years, Atlanta Fulton County 23 years. 

1. Why are you the most qualified candidate for the position?

Gregory Gilstrap (preferred mug)

Gregory Gilstrap

I have 38 years of combined Law Enforcement and professional experience.

I am employed at Carver College Police Department. Formerly, Lieutenant with Morehouse College, Sergeant with Dekalb County Sheriff’s Office, and Assistant Director of Protection Services with the Woodruff Arts Center.

My responsibilities at the Woodruff Arts Center entailed administration of security personnel and services, accountable for the safety and security of the staff and students of the Atlanta College of Art, staff and patrons of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, High Museum staff and property, and the Alliance Theatre staff and actors. Also, responsible for the planning and coordination of security management and safety of 5,000+ patrons who visited the Woodruff Arts Center daily.

Furthermore, I am a State of Georgia Certified Police Officer and Certified Instructor by the Georgia State Board of Private Detective and Security Agencies. As Sheriff of Cobb County, I will serve and protect with integrity.

2. What is the greatest long-term challenge facing the community in which you seek to represent? 

The greatest long-term challenge facing law enforcement in the community is restoring and maintaining public trust. Many citizens are fearful and hesitant to approach law enforcement officers because of past negative encounters. Over the past years there has been much conversations in the media and town hall meetings regarding unfair treatment of citizens by law enforcement. Many citizens do not report crime in their community because they believe law enforcement will interrogate them as a suspect or dismiss their complaint.

Furthermore, detainees and their family have (voiced) concerns regarding the mistreatment of detainees within the Cobb County Detention Center. Since their concerns were disregarded by the Sheriff’s Office, they contact the media and advocates to bring attention to these inhumane conditions.

3. What is your solution to that challenge?

Restoring and maintaining public trust is crucial for law enforcement to have open dialogue with citizens. First, law enforcement needs to build relationships within the communities they serve and protect. Law enforcement should interact with citizens to show they are concerned and a part of the community. Getting to know the people on a personal level will ease tension/fear making law enforcement approachable while gaining citizens' trust. Second, the Sheriff Office should be transparent in all issues/grievances brought forth by detainees and employees. All issues/grievances should be investigated thoroughly with practical solutions that do not violate a person’s rights and adhere to the state constitution and laws of Georgia.

James Herndon

Party: Democrat

Office running for: Cobb County Sheriff

Job: Security and Investigations Consultant

Previously held elected office: None

Family: My Wife Kristi and our four boys, Jacob, Aaron, Knox and Miles

University's name and degree: Valdosta State University, Master of Public Administration, Master of Science in Criminology, Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice

Military service: None

Residence: Marietta, GA

Where did you grow up? Clinch County, Georgia

How long have you lived here? 20 years

1. Why are you the most qualified candidate for the position?

James Herndon Mug.jpg

James Herndon

I have worked my entire adult life in law enforcement. I have worked in all areas of the Cobb County Sheriff's Office. I am the only candidate, to include our current Sheriff, that has actually worked in and supervised in our jail. Having firsthand experience is crucial to lead the men and women of the Cobb Sheriff’s Office. I believe my education and firsthand experience of working in our Sheriff's Office sets me apart from the other candidates. I believe I have the vision, the drive and the ability to bring effective, positive change to the Cobb Sheriff's Office to restore the office to one that serves as a protector of everyone. It is time for a change. I am the candidate that can bring the much needed change to our Sheriff's Office.

2. What is the greatest long-term challenge facing the community in which you seek to represent? 

I believe the biggest long-term challenge facing the Sheriff's office is our county jail. Under the current Sheriff, 48 people have died in custody. I believe we can and must do a better job in taking care of those in our care to present them alive and well for trial. We must find ways to divert those that are mentally ill from our jails. Our jails have become substitutes for mental health facilities. Jails were never designed to be used in such a manner. We are failing those most vulnerable among us when we put mentally ill people in our jail facilities rather than treatment. This trend must change. The Sheriff has the ability to be on the front lines of changing the way we deal with mentally ill people in our community and I intend to facilitate that change.

3. What is your solution to that challenge?

I plan to obtain national certification for the Sheriff's Office. This will include the jail, the healthcare system in the jail, and the agency as a whole. This will ensure we meet high national standards that are written and measurable. Currently our Sheriff's office is not accredited in any way nationally. 48 people have died in the Sheriff's custody. The infirmary has not been updated since the early 1980s. I will update the infirmary to meet basic standards of care to ensure people do not needlessly suffer. Not only is this the humane thing to do, it will save taxpayers money. I will mandate that those coming into our custody be evaluated for mental illness and such information be given to judges and other decision makers to help facilitate treatment and direct those individuals away from jail that truly do not need to be incarcerated.

Craig Owens

Party: Democrat

Office running for: Cobb County Sheriff

Job: Major, Cobb County Police Department

Previously held elected office: NA

Family: Married with 3 children

University's name and degree: B.A. Criminal Justice (Saint Leo University); M.A. Public Administration (Columbus State University)

Military service: Command Sergeant Major (Retired), U.S. Army Reserve

Residence: Mableton, GA

Where did you grow up? City of Atlanta & Cobb County

How long have you lived here? Lived in Cobb County for 33 Years

1. Why are you the most qualified candidate for the position? 

Maj.Owens

Craig Owens

I am the only candidate in this election who brings more than 30 years of law enforcement and military experience, formal education and practical application, management experience, and budget expertise to the Cobb County Sheriff’s office.

I began my law enforcement career as a patrolman, working my way up to major. I proudly served in the U.S. Army Reserve and helped lead mission-critical teams to fight the global war on terrorism. I’m a husband, father, and longtime Cobb resident with deep community roots.

Cobb deserves someone with a track record of truth, trust, and transparency to effectively manage the nearly $100 million budget and 700-person staff of the sheriff’s office.

I’m committed to restoring integrity and ethical leadership to the sheriff’s office. My work is rooted in an inclusive, collaborative, and community-oriented approach to help keep Cobb residents safe and to ensure the detention center operates in a dignified manner.

2. What is the greatest long-term challenge facing the community in which you seek to represent?

I believe my Democratic opponents and I share the same stance on 287(g). It is a serious issue. Thankfully, there’s an immediate solution — stop participating in the program. 

The long-term challenge is the public has lost confidence in the Cobb County sheriff’s office. The department’s inability to ensure the basic human rights of detainees at the county detention center is emblematic of much larger issues.

As a Cobb resident, you deserve to know how the sheriff’s office is spending your tax dollars. Cobb deserves to know that your sheriff’s office is representative of the entire county and every officer shows up to work in a manner that reflects honorably on our county. 

That’s why I’m running — to restore truth, trust, and transparency to the sheriff’s office.

3. What is your solution to that challenge?

As sheriff, I will put forth immediate steps for our sheriff’s office to earn a Triple Crown rating, the gold standard for sheriffs’ offices nationwide — and a far cry from where we are today. I will implement a comprehensive evaluation of three key areas — budget, personnel, and programs.

Our office will:

  • Recruit and retain a diverse field of qualified officers and invest in training, programs, and technology to ensure they can enjoy a fulfilling career
  • Treat detainees with dignity and help them return to society by providing drug counseling, educational opportunities, and basic parenting and life skills training
  • Collaborate with local law enforcement to ensure the safety of all Cobb residents by tackling gang and drug activities, (combating) cybercrimes, and addressing financial fraud
  • Provide opportunities for authentic public engagement and transparency
  • We will deliver the respected leadership that Cobb deserves to the Cobb County sheriff’s office.
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