Sheriff Neil Warren — a no-nonsense, straight-shootin’, west Cobb Republican with a heart of gold — is up for re-election on Nov. 8.
Warren coasted to victory in the last three elections against Democrat Gregory Gilstrap, who, not content in being thrice defeated, is challenging Warren for a fourth time.
One of the primary reasons Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds believes all law enforcement branches — Cobb Police, municipal and university forces and prosecutors — function together so well is the man sitting in the sheriff’s seat. Such cohesion is not seen in every county.
“He’s the highest ranking law enforcement officer in this county that wears a badge, and I think because of that position, other agencies look to the sheriff for direction. They look for guidance. They look for example, and he and his folks do a good job in setting the high standard there,” Reynolds said. “He’s put together a great staff that … my folks work with day in and day out, and I think they are a reflection of who and what Neil is as a sheriff.”
Reynolds said the two work closely on the Marietta-Cobb-Smyrna Narcotics Board, and he spoke highly of Warren’s unit that targets elder abuse and his fight against Cobb’s heroin epidemic.
Cobb Solicitor General Barry Morgan credits Warren as one of the reasons the county has not seen the kind of violent protests that have unfolded elsewhere in the nation.
“At the end of the day, you may go away disagreeing on a point, but having the opportunity to be heard and have your viewpoint listened to and considered, Neil and Vic both have done that extraordinarily well, and I think that’s one of the reasons we don’t get those types of protests here,” Morgan said.
Warren’s willingness to listen is one of the reasons he was endorsed by the local Fraternal Order of Police chapter, according to its president, retired Cobb Police Sgt. Steve Gaynor. Unlike his predecessor, former Sheriff Bill Hutson, who Gaynor said didn’t care for the FOP, Warren has been receptive to the lodge’s suggestions and requests. Gaynor said Warren has a reputation among deputies for being fair in disciplinary actions and in the promotion process.
Warren’s was the first law enforcement agency in Georgia to join the 287(g) program in 2007 to identify criminals in the country illegally and to turn them over to Immigration Customs Enforcement. To date, his office has turned over 10,376 people to ICE through the program. Fox News named him one of America’s top 10 anti-illegal immigration sheriffs in 2012.
Use of the program brought him the enmity of the open borders lobby. But to paraphrase FDR and Winston Churchill, judge Warren by the enemies he’s made as it means he’s stood for something.
Speaking as a private citizen and not as CEO of the YWCA of Northwest Georgia, Holly Tuchman said she’s known Warren for years and believes him to be both honest and upright, leading a wonderful group of people.
“I believe in him. I trust him,” Tuchman said. “I know that some people may not agree with some of the things that he does. However, I believe we’re a nation of laws, and I think he is trying to make sure we enforce those laws in our community, and I think he lives to serve and protect the citizens of Cobb County.”
As sheriff, Warren governs an office with an annual budget of $73 million, employing 517 deputies and 305 civilian employees. The bulk of his staff’s time is taken up with jail operations, court security, serving criminal warrants, civil paper service, financial fraud and sex offender checks. The county jail can hold 3,460 inmates and has an average of 2,000 inmates at any given time. It’s an enormous responsibility and one that he carries out with excellence.
Born in Cherokee County, Warren has lived most of his life in Cobb and was a member of the Osborne High School Class of 1966. He earned a degree in Criminal Justice from Brenau College and is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy.
Warren, 69, who has been employed with the sheriff’s office since 1977, was sworn in as the 42nd Sheriff of Cobb County January 1, 2004, filling Hutson’s unexpired term. He and his wife, Penny, have two adult children and attend Roswell Street Baptist Church. Warren has been showered with recognition from such groups as the Cobb Bar Association and Cobb Republican Women’s Club. He was named 2014 Sheriff of the Year by the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association.
Morgan pointed to Warren’s charitable work in the community, noting anytime there is a cause that needs help, he’s there to lend a hand.
“He’s extraordinarily community-minded, not only with his law enforcement, but looking for ways to impact the lives of the folks who live here to make it a better community to live in,” Morgan said.
Any write-up of Warren can’t overlook the sheriff’s annual Corn Boilin’, where people flock from across the state for a little bit of politicking as they enjoy fresh corn, hoe cakes and fat back at Jim R. Miller Park. The event has raised more than $200,000 for the Cobb Youth Museum over the years.
Warren has done an outstanding job in leading one of the finest sheriff’s departments in the country. Cobb County is fortunate to have him in office now and would do well to give the sheriff another term.