Former Deputy Tommy Dorsey Challenges Sheriff John Q. Williams - Flagpole (2024)

Athens native Tommy Dorsey is trying to unseat incumbent Sheriff John Q. Williams, who was first elected in 2020. Both have years of experience in law enforcement.

Williams, a native of Gary, IN, moved to Athens in 1997, right before graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in speech and communications (which he later finished online). His married sister was getting a master’s degree at UGA, and he lived with her family and worked several part-time jobs before landing a full-time position in 1998 as a dispatcher with the UGA police department. He stayed there four years before taking a dispatcher job with the Charlotte Police Department, then returned to UGA and transitioned to contract work and helped implement the county‘s new communications system.

Williams spent two years as a dispatcher with the Athens police department, then decided to “be in the field.” He attended the police academy and joined the police department as a sworn officer in 2009, eventually becoming a sergeant. “It proved to be what I wanted,” he says. “I got to knock on doors and learn people’s concerns. As a dispatcher, you never know how things work out.”

When 2020 came around, he decided to run for sheriff, knowing that morale at the jail was low and that employees were unhappy, and believing he “could make a difference in the community.” Almost since the day he put on the sheriff’s badge, Williams has been asking the county commission to increase the salaries of his deputies to put them on par with the police department, and to let him hire more people—right now, he says they need 40 more deputies.

Former Deputy Tommy Dorsey Challenges Sheriff John Q. Williams - Flagpole (1)

Dorsey, a 1994 graduate of Cedar Shoals High School, attended Middle Georgia College before earning an online degree in criminal justice from Columbia Southern. He worked at the Youth Detention Center before moving as a deputy to the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, where he stayed for 20 years. After Williams defeated former sheriff Ira Edwards in 2020, Dorsey left the sheriff’s office and took a job as a resource officer with the Clarke County School District, stationed at Cedar Shoals.

Dorsey believes the jail is so understaffed that it’s not safe for the inmates or the employees. He says he would work with the county commissioners and the county manager to get more money to hire more and better employees, and he would make sure the community knows the role of a deputy sheriff. Having been employed at the sheriff’s office before, he says he knows how it should work. He wouldn’t house inmates for other jurisdictions until there is more staff to handle them.

“I would like everyone to work in the jail for at least a year,” Dorsey says. If he is elected, he says he would first determine the “needs and wants of the deputies and give them a sense of appreciation and comfort.” He would then review the department policies and procedures, changing ones that aren’t beneficial, and he would get a complete understanding of his new role.

Williams says he has received vile and even threatening emails and phone calls from people around the country who have implicated him and his office in Laken Riley’s murder. The undocumented Venezuelan suspect, Jose Antonio Ibarra, was never booked into the jail; he faced a misdemeanor shoplifting charge in 2023. Officials have said it’s not likely ICE would have detained Ibarra because the incidents he was involved in before his recent arrest were minor. Williams says the sheriff’s office is going to keep better records on who the department detains, who is picked up by ICE and who is deported.

Since becoming sheriff, Williams believes morale has improved in the department—he’s tried to show employees that they have a voice. He wants to continue “helping the community” and creating outreach programs. A joint effort with Habitat For Humanity has eight female inmates learning carpentry skills and building tiny houses. Their first building is almost complete, although Williams isn’t sure where it will ultimately be located.

Both candidates are running in the May 21 Democratic primary. There is no Republican candidate in November.

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Former Deputy Tommy Dorsey Challenges Sheriff John Q. Williams - Flagpole (2024)


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