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Constitutional officers have all been named best in the state by their peers

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Constitutional officers have all been named best in the state by their peers

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Bart Jackson (center) and Butch Reece represented the constitutional officers at the dedication of the piano for the Senior Center. FILE PHOTO

When Sheriff Butch Reece was named Georgia’s Sheriff of the Year last month at the Georgia Sheriffs’ Conference on Jekyll Island, he was the final member of Jones County’s constitutional officers designated as the state’s best.

The exact statistic of how many of Georgia’s 159 counties can claim to have all the state’s best constitutional officers is unknown, but the consensus is that the designation is rare.

Perhaps even more notable, Jones County’s four constitutional officers have a combined 127 years of service in their current positions.

Probate Judge

Mike Greene was the first to receive the state designation, and he actually received two, albeit a few years ago. Greene received the Probate Judge of the Year from the Georgia Council of Probate Judges in 1995.

The following year he was named the County Officer of the Year by the County Officers Association, which is now known as the Constitional Officers Association of Georgia. That award recognized the top constitutional officer in the state.

The judge said his constituents in each association voted in both of those awards. He also received exemplary Probate Judge awards in 2001 and 2010, which he said was selected by the president of the association.

Greene said he was appointed to the position of Probate Judge in October of 1981 and was elected in November of the same year. He had been Jones County’s Probate Judge for 15 years when he received the 1996 award.

Superior Court Clerk

Bart Jackson celebrated his 25th year in office in 2014, which was the year he was named Georgia’s Superior Court Clerk of the Year.

Jackson was presented with the award, which is known as the Stetson F. Bennett award, April 30, 2014 at the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort on St. Simons Island.

Jackson was elected as Jones County’s Superior Court Clerk in 1988 and took office Jan. 1, 1989. His first foray into politics was in 1986 when he ran and won the position of Jones County District 1 Commissioner to finish out the term of a commissioner who died while in office.

He said he decided to run for Superior Court Clerk when the former clerk, Jack Roberts, retired after 33 years of service.

Jackson was 29 when he took office in 1989. He currently supervises three courts –Superior, Juvenile and Magistrate.

The Clerk of the Year is chosen by the 159 clerks in the Superior Court Clerks Association.

Tax Commissioner

Brian Jackson was named Georgia’s Tax Commissioner of the Year in 2016. He had served as Jones County’s Tax Commissioner for 20 years when he was presented the award at the Georgia Association of Tax Officials’ luncheon May 11, 2016, in Athens.

Jackson had been a member of the executive board of GATO for four years and started as its secretary.

Jackson said he knew his name was thrown into the mix for the award, but he said there were several more deserving candidates and thought little of his chances.

The tax commissioner was born and raised in Jones County and attended Jones County schools. He graduated from Georgia College and worked at the medical center while he was in college.

His first public service job was program director for Jones County’s Older American Council, and he remained in the position until he ran for tax commissioner in 1996. Jackson recalled that was the year the former commissioner, Marilyn Sauls, retired.

His said his experience with the OAC budget that was funded by the state, county and various sources was helpful in his transition to tax commissioner. He said he was approached when the position opened, ran, and was fortunate enough to win.

Sheriff

Reece had been Jones County’s Sheriff for 38 years when he received his Sheriff of the Year award.

He was announced as the Sheriff of the Year at the conclusion of this year’s Georgia Sheriffs’ Association Conference Aug. 1.

The sheriff began his career in law enforcement as a deputy in 1972, and he was elected Jones County’s top law enforcement officer in 1980.

The first years of his career were spent as one of four deputies at the Jones County Sheriff’s Office. He still categorizes himself as a dirtroad sheriff.

Reece is an active member of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association and has hosted an annual Salute to Georgia Sheriffs every September since 2013 to recognize the value of Georgia Sheriffs.

The Jones County Sheriff’s Department obtained its first certification from the State of Georgia in 2004 and has maintained that certification since. The certification status represents a significant professional achievement and confirms the agency’s practices are consistent with progressive professional standards.

The sheriff continues to be involved in the community. He has raised funds for Boy Scouts, created a safe house, and established an enhanced 911 center.

The JCSO works with Jones County Schools by providing a school resource officer and in educating students through CHAMPS and Rolling Reader where deputies read to students in the classroom.

An additional school resource officer was added this year.

A weeklong summer camp for kids at the Sheriff’s Department, which was the sheriff’s idea, was started last year.

Over and above

Jones County’s constitutional officers came to the rescue of the Senior Center in 2014 when the piano that was being used during their programs became unusable. Mike Underwood, who was the county administrator at the time, said, when he could not find funds for a new piano in the budget, he approached the officers.

Underwood said not one of them hesitated to donate, and the piano was presented to the Senior Center Aug. 18, 2014. The administrator was the fifth donor toward the $1,000 goal.

Reece and Brian Jackson attended the event to represent the group. Bart Jackson and Greene were both tied up with court.

Brian Jackson told the seniors that the center had a special place in his heart from his time as program director.

Reece noted that hearing the hymns playing when he entered the center that morning made him feel like he was attending church.

Underwood said it was his hope that the seniors would enjoy the piano for many years to come, and thanks to the constitutional officers, they have.