Bleckley Sheriff: It is not an 8 to 5 job | Best Of
By Becky Holland
Harold Lancaster saunters in a room, and all heads turn, and the whispers start. “It is the Sheriff.”
He just grins, and acknowledges different people, and sits down, to talk. The conversations in the room stopping and the whispers aren't new to the married father of two sons, Adam and Brandon, one daughter, Jessica and a step-daughter, Samantha.
He has been in law enforcement for 32 years, and has served as the Bleckley County Sheriff for the last 12. Prior to being sheriff, he was an officer with the Georgia State Patrol.
At the age of 58, Lancaster said he has learned “a lot from this job … I can't and won't and haven't always pleased everybody, but my job is to protect our citizens.”
“And I have tried to be fair, and I would like to continue do so,” he said. On November 6, voters in Bleckley County will decide if they would like to keep Lancaster in that position or elect his opponent, Johnny Blash, a road deputy with the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office and a resident of Bleckley County.
In his 12 years of service, Lancaster said there have been good and bad times, and like with most things, there have been situations he would have liked to have done over, but “I have tried to have a proactive department, and not a reactive department.”
Growing up, he lived in the corner where Bleckley, Dodge and Pulaski counties intersect. “I was born in Dodge County, but we were half mile from the Pulaski County line and half mile from Bleckley County. I went to school in Hawkinsville, graduated from Middle Georgia College and my mother was from the Empire community. She worked for Bell South for more than 37 years.”
Saying all of that, he pointed out that his concerns lie in making a better community in Bleckley County and working to have good relations with the surrounding counties.
And he strives to do that. “We are working hard with the Cochran City Police to help take back certain neighborhoods in the city from the criminal element. We work pretty well with the surrounding counties as as well – to keep crime out of the streets.”
In recent months, Lancaster has been put under scrutiny by citizens in regards to his department's budget. According to him, there are some misconceptions. “Until you have really sat down, asked questions and taken a long hard look at what we do and the budget, you really can't understand or won't understand what we have done or are doing.”
He said, “I try to work within our budget, and to work closely with the County Commissioner to make sure we stay within what we are supposed to so that we don't go over budget.”
With a 'see-sawing' economy, Lancaster said, “It is very hard to be able to do what we were sworn in to do … funds are tight everywhere. I have looked at grants on both the state and federal level, and we all know what shape the federal government is in. There are not enough grants to go around.”
As a Sheriff, he said, “No matter how I try to plan our operating budget, there are things we really can't get an exact count on when preparing it – like the number of inmates that will be in our facilities, medical attention that some might require, and in planning for gas for our vehicles, I can't plan for $3 a gallon – because that changes constantly.”
“But I am trying to be very frugal with the taxpayers' money.” He pointed out some other issues that have been brought to his attention - “we don't want to have officers out in unsafe vehicles, so we have to pay for the upkeep and maintenance.”
Lancaster said, “Being sheriff is not an 8 to 5 job, especially not in Bleckley County. When everyone else has a holiday, like on Columbus Day, I worked.”
He continued, “It is my goal to do whatever it takes to keep everyone in Bleckley County safe … I don't give out my cell phone, but ever since I moved to Bleckley County in 1995, my phone number has been the same, and is in the phone book.”
Lancaster concluded, “I want to thank everyone for the opportunity to be their sheriff, and hope that they will allow me to continue to be so.”