Meet candidates for Washington County Sheriff, discuss plans, police brutality

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MCRAE-HELENA, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Washington County residents will vote on a new sheriff next month. The county is holding a special election after former Sheriff Thomas Smith died this summer.

The Interim Sheriff, Mark McGraw, isn’t running for sheriff.

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Michael Johnson, Joel Cochran, and Kelly Brooks Jr. are looking to be Washington County’s new sheriff.

Cochran and Brooks have experience at the sheriff’s office. Johnson also wants to make a difference in the community.

Cochran currently serves as Chief of Police in Tennille. He also works for the sheriff’s office and handles the budget.



Brooks is serving his fourth year as a school resource officer for the middle school. He ran for sheriff in 2016 and also worked for the sheriff’s office.

Johnson manages private properties and is opening a restaurant in downtown Sandersville.

Over the summer, former Washington County Sheriff Thomas Smith died after serving 22 years.

Candidates plan to implement programs for youth, enhance public safety, and strengthen community relationships.

“Form some partnerships with the school system, churches, civic groups, and try to educate parents and educate the public,” Cochran said.

“The main focus is children and getting them to focus on what they need to be focused on and get them away from drugs and the alleged gang activity,” Johnson said.

“If I can get people to start trusting us again. I want to lead the department with respected employees and who give respect,” Brooks said.

Candidates plan to focus on eliminating police brutality to avoid seeing a repeat of the 2017 incident wherein three former sheriff deputies fatally tasered 58-year-old Eurie Martin after he asked a stranger for water. The court indicted the deputies on murder charges.

“Training with more involvement in our community is key,” Brooks said.

“I would like to make the county feel that it belongs to them,” Johnson said.

“We need to focus more on training with mental health or people with substance abuse,” Cochran said. “The current staff is going through crisis intervention training.”

You can vote on election day, November 5.

The Washington County ballot

Also on Washington County’s ballot:

  • Extending the SPLOST to pay off debt from building the new jail
  • EMA radios
  • Road work projects