With his inauguration on December 28, 2020, Jeffrey Brewer is now Emanuel 1. The road to his new elected capacity has been a long one, but he won the people’s vote and is here to stay for at least four years. In the months since he took office, he has started making good on his campaign promises and has his eyes on the future of his office.
“I think my whole life in law enforcement has led me to this point,” Brewer opened. “Everything I did from 1982 forward benefitted me and molded me for this job. I talked to [former] Sheriff [Tyson] Stephens in 2012 and told him whenever he retired, I’d be interested in running. It went forward from that.”
Brewer’s storied history in public service dates back to the late 1970s when he enrolled in and completed the local EMT program at Swainsboro Technical College. As a certified EMT, Brewer worked in nearby Laurens and Jefferson counties. In 1979, he went through the paramedic program in DeKalb Community College in Decatur and after receiving his certification to be a paramedic, he came home to Emanuel and worked for the EMS service here full-time from 1979 to 1982, in addition to part-time from 1982 to 1999.
The next phase of Brewer’s career took him to the Georgia State Patrol working as a radio operator at Post 45 out of Conyers. He became a trooper in 1984 and went to the 60th Trooper School in Atlanta. Throughout the years with GSP, he worked in a variety of places, including Madison, Reidsville, Sylvania, Savannah, Hinesville, Brunswick, Jekyll Island, Waycross, and, of course, Swainsboro. He retired from the state patrol in 2014 with 32 years of service, complete with supervisory and management experience.
The day after he retired, he went to work with the sheriff’s office. He visited Stephens and came on board as captain over patrol, courthouse security, and the administrative office. He worked in the courthouse for four years and spent the last two years as jail administrator. In 2019, he declared his intent to run for sheriff, following Stephens’s announcement that he himself would retire. That was in September.
The months that followed were full of long hours, lots of riding, handshaking, knocking on doors, giving his best pitch to voters, leaving informative pamphlets, and other common “good, old-fashioned politicking” strategies. He officially qualified in March 2020. In June, Brewer won the primary election outright. On Election Day on November, he won the sheriff’s race with 76 percent votes across the county.
“It’s still almost unbelievable. A lot of people think when you get elected to an important public position you become a very strong, powerful leader… But I’ve found that actually being sheriff means you’re a servant to the people.”
On the campaign trail, he made several commitments to the citizenry of Emanuel. Some of those included increasing the road staff, increasing the investigative staff, remaining as accessible in office as he was during his campaign, addressing the backlog of civil papers, and just overall capitalizing on his slogan, “Excellence is the Standard, Not the Goal.”
Stephens brought Brewer back into the office a week after the election to make the transition process as smooth as possible. His official title at the time was chief deputy. A week after Thanksgiving, he started sheriff school and has completed three weeks of the required four weeks with the last to be checked off in March. Throughout the weeks he has completed, he has met 36 new sheriffs and learned an incredible amount in a short timeframe. Brewer officially took office when he signed onto the radio as Emanuel 1 some seven minutes after midnight on January 1, 2021. In the short weeks since then, he has started fulfilling his promises he made long ago. Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office now has a new Facebook page. He has named his command staff. (Look for more information on this next week.) He has, in fact, increased the amount of road deputies as promised, instructing them to have a stronger, more frequent presence in the outer communities during the important hours from 5 to 10 p.m. Additionally, he has added more workers to the investigative side of the SO. Brewer has assigned a deputy to monitor and track sex offenders in the area, and he has begun inventorying the evidence room. Other accomplishments of note include: tracking equipment, adding to the number of personnel in the uniform division, amending the investigative staff to include two drug/gang investigators, reaching the halfway point to releasing the office’s new website, bringing the vehicles to a more current state, reaching a total of three female deputies, discussing with the schools the appropriate necessary changes for each institution, and maintaining the jail’s operation, physical condition, and COVID-free status. His office door remains open 90 percent of the time, every civil paper has been served, and all serious crime warrants have been issued.
Taking all this on has been quite a task, especially in such a short amount of time. None of it, he says, would be possible without his staff and the family environment the sheriff’s office has today. Spread across the different divisions are 60 employees, and Brewer’s approach to management is one that gives employees freedom and latitude to do their jobs while at the same time instilling in them a sense of empowerment that translates into confidence that he has their backs.
Brewer knew he wanted to be sheriff for a long time and he knew the work it would entail if he ever reached the top. He also realized the burden would be heavy—but he is ready to meet the task and is grateful for the opportunity to serve.
“Until you are elected into a role like sheriff, you don’t realize how much sheriffs affect people’s lives by the decisions we make, the things we do, the people we help… It’s an awesome responsibility we have. I read a quote the other day that said, ‘If you’re not ready to serve, you’re not ready to lead.’ I’ve spent my entire career serving, and I’ll continue to do that. Now it’s time to lead, and I’m going to take that burden of responsibility seriously day in and day out.”
Brewer has been leading the sheriff’s office for weeks now, dating back to his rejoining ECSO as chief deputy and more plainly as Emanuel County Sheriff since January 1. His inauguration night was no exception. Although other newly elected sheriffs across the state may have spent their first nights as sworn-in officials in a more traditional, celebratory manner, Brewer did what he’s been doing for years. When a rolling shooting took place in Dellwood just hours after his taking the oaths, he went to the scene right away and helped his investigators and the GBI. In his words, as tragic as it was, “it made the night more memorable” in an official sense.
That work ethic, attached to his humility, is exactly why the welcome from the public has been nothing short of supportive and accepting. “People I’ve known my whole life that have called me ‘Jeffrey’ now call me ‘Sheriff.’ I appreciate the respect and honor they’re giving me and I would never want to take that away from them, but I’m still the same Jeffrey and that won’t change. Being sheriff, you’re kind of the face of the county. In everything I do and everywhere I go, I try to be mindful of that. I want to represent us well, and I’m going to do that to the best of my ability from here on out.”
Brewer closed by saying he could never thank all the people he owes a debt of gratitude to because the list is so long and he wouldn’t want to forget anyone. However, he is thankful for his wife and children, all of whom “put their lives on hold” for a year to help him in various ways. He also says he’s thankful for everyone who supported him throughout his campaign, especially for the prayers.
Moving forward, Brewer says the public can continue to expect his office to realize the other goals he set during campaign season. More importantly, he will keep the interest of Emanuel County first and always pursue what’s right.