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Clarke Sheriff sees no need for another pay study

Clarke County Sheriff John Q. Williams (right) and deputies participate in an Day of Service in January, 2024.
Clarke County Sheriff's Office
Clarke County Sheriff John Q. Williams (right) and deputies participate in an Day of Service in January, 2024.

Clarke County’s Sheriff says there’s no need for another pay study to justify paying his deputies a salary on par with other law enforcement officials in the county.

Sheriff’s deputies in Clarke County make less than their counterparts in the Athens-Clarke County Police Department – about $5,000 per year less for an entry-level position. Sheriff John Q. Williams says that has led to major problems in his office, which is understaffed by 45 deputies.

"With this disparity, we've lost, this year, three deputies to the Police Department that's right across the parking lot from the jail," Williams said.

He added that last year, his office lost two sergeants, who earned more as entry-level officers with ACCPD than they did as supervisors in the Sheriff’s Office.

I think that money would be much better and easier spent just going with the common sense approach.
Sheriff John Q. Williams

Williams says he also loses deputies to other law enforcement agencies in the metro Atlanta area.

"You can drive another 30, 45 minutes to the Atlanta area and the pay is just considerably higher," he said. :So we've always lost the people to the Gwinnett counties of the world. Even like Suwanee, some of these new annexed areas that have deep pockets at the core so they can pay folks a lot more."

Williams has asked ACC commissioners several times in recent years for pay parity between his deputies and other law enforcement personnel in Athens, but commissioners haven’t moved ahead with major raises for deputies. This year, however, a trio of commissioners – Dexter Fisher, Mike Hamby, and Jesse Houle – are offering a budget that allocates $545,000 for a pay study and implementation of raises if the study recommends them.

But, Williams says, a pay study shouldn’t be necessary.

"I think that money would be much better and easier spent just going with the common sense approach," he said.

He says that the county has done pay studies in recent years, including one in 2020 that led to the current issues he sees with pay.

"There has always been parity between the Sheriff's Office and the police department that was almost identical pay for decades, and this pay study is what set that apart," he said.

Some in county government have argued that the salary discrepancy is explained by the work most Sheriff’s deputies do – supervising inmates at the county’s jail. Because of that, their work can be compared to corrections and detention officers in other nearby counties. Those detention officers do often get paid less than their colleagues in other law enforcement disciplines. But Williams says jail work is hard and dangerous work and it’s not the only dangerous thing deputies do.

"The jail is a very dangerous environment itself, but we also have certified officers that do warrant service evictions, sometimes even just going to serve a civil paper," he said. "And you don't know if that person's got a murder warrant holding from another county. It's just as or even more dangerous than any other thing, because cause you're dealing with the unknown."

Williams also notes that Sheriff’s deputies undergo the same training and certification as other sworn police officers.

Commissioners are expected to vote on a budget proposal on June 5. That meeting will be preceded by a public comment period on the budget.




Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.