Kenneth Golden was chosen as Bryan County’s next sheriff on Tuesday, taking a slim 52.72 percent of the vote over challenger John Wyatt (47.28 percent).
According to unofficial numbers provided late Tuesday by Bryan County Election Board, Golden, a Democrat, received 6,903 votes to 6,190 for Wyatt, a Republican.
Golden will replace longtime Bryan County Sheriff Bill Sturch in January 2013, as Sturch is stepping down after 20 years at the post.
“The people have made a choice, and it was extremely close,” said Golden after learning of his victory Tuesday. “They have let me know that they do want change. We’re going to do everything we can to make the changes people want. I understand their concerns and we will work on those the best we can.”
Wyatt called Golden to congratulate him shortly after the final results were announced.
“Congratulations to Ken, I’m sure he’ll do a good job. It was a very close race,” Wyatt, a reserve captain with Durant Police Department, said. “We work together in law enforcement and will still work together. There is a lot of work to do on the county side, it’s going to be a lot of work.
“I appreciate all the support I had and all the volunteers,” Wyatt said. “This is not a one-person thing. Nobody can do this without a lot of helpers.”
Golden said priorities at the sheriff’s office would be increasing training for county deputies and investigators, curbing methamphetamine labs and other drug activity, re-starting the DARE program and creation of an inmate labor program.
“One of the first things I want to do is have a round table meeting with every deputy I’ve got, to hear their concerns” Golden said. “I want to get these guys in as many (police training) schools as possible. That way people will feel more secure, with better-trained deputies. I would like to see better communication and cooperation between us and the community. I would like to see the trust restored that people say they are lacking.”
Golden also thanked his supporters who contributed time, money, as well as everyone who voted for him. He also expressed appreciation for Sturch, who had won five straight terms as sheriff. Golden has been a deputy of Sturch’s for 20 years.
“I appreciate the opportunity he has given me to be here 20 years and to learn a lot more things,” Golden said. “I hope I can do the job that will get me re-elected in four years.”
In other county elections, Tammy Reynolds, a Democrat, was re-elected Bryan County Clerk, receiving 61.63 percent with 8,027 ballot cast for her. Her Republican challenger, Glenn Russell, received 4,998 votes.
Election Board Secretary Linda Fahrendorf reported lower turnout on Tuesday compared to 2008, the last presidential election. She said an estimated 54 percent of Bryan County’s 24,269 registered voters went to the polls Tuesday, compared to 60 percent in 2008.
“We had some long lines and some people had to do provisional ballots, but overall everything went pretty smooth,” Fahrendorf said. “Some precincts had over 1,000 voters and those were the ones with the long lines.”