Craig Owens Sworn In As Cobb County Sheriff
Cobb County Courier article by Larry Felton Johnson
Published Dec. 31, 2020
Craig Owens was sworn in as Cobb County sheriff, a historic landmark since Owens became the first Black sheriff in the 189-year history of the county.
The oath of office was administered by Cobb County State Court Chief Judge Carl Bowers, and was accompanied by the swearing-in of long-time deputy Rhonda Anderson as Chief Deputy Sheriff.
Anderson herself was a barrier-breaker, as the first Black woman to serve as a deputy in the Sheriff’s Office when she was hired by the department in 1983.
Owens is a Democrat, and was most recently the commander of the Cobb County Police Department‘s Precinct 2, covering South Cobb.
Chesley McNeil opened the ceremony, and Dr. Tar-U-Way Bright of Turner Chapel AME gave an opening prayer.
Bright recited a Biblical verse from Jeremiah 22,
Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
The first speaker was Sam Olens, a Republican who has served as chair of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, Georgia Attorney General, and president of Kennesaw State University.
“About 20 years ago, when I was a Cobb County district commissioner, I first witnessed Major Craig Owens’s desire to improve our community, to establish relationships with neighborhoods, and form bonds with our youth,” Olens said.
“Craig was an early leader of an organization called COPS … Color of Public Safety, an organization created to assist those in our community who needed a helping hand,” he said. “I immediately admired Craig’s passion, his drive, and his commitment.”
“Craig and other officers understood that our children and communities ravaged by violence, sometimes viewed police officers as the enemy,” he said. “Enhanced community policing was needed to secure both the streets and the safety of those children.”
“It’s not only Shaquille O’Neal who can change lives with a pickup basketball game,” Olens said. “Many people can do that, if they so choose.”
“Major Owens recognize that he and his officers could make a difference. programs such as Shop with a Cop, and simply bringing bicycles to children in a neighborhood,” Olens said.
The next speaker was Democratic state Representative Teri Anulewicz, of Georgia House District 42, which covers Smyrna and Marietta.
“My district is a broad group of communities,” she said. “It’s all kinds of backgrounds, it’s all kinds of folks.”
“It’s major businesses, like Comcast and the Atlanta Braves. It’s communities like Fair Oaks and neighborhoods like Williams Park and Rose Garden,” she said.
“It is a community that today is going to have just the most wonderful representation through their Sheriff, through Craig Owens, and through Rhonda Anderson,” said Anulewicz.
“Cobb County is a broad, wonderful, vibrant, dynamic county with broad, wonderful, vibrant and dynamic groups of people and families and businesses who all come together to make this our home,” she said. “And the fact that we’re going to have a sheriff (with) this kind of character that Craig Owens has in law enforcement in Cobb County is something that is going to make our future all that much brighter.”
“The transparency that we can look forward to, the dignity that we can look forward to, the compassion, the empathy, all of these things that make Craig Owens such a phenomenal sheriff,” Anulewicz said. “I’m very excited for what the future holds. I’m so grateful that Rhonda Anderson is going to be by his side. I am so excited for what having Craig Owens as sheriff means for Cobb County.”
Republican Commissioner Bob Ott, who is retiring, said, “Good afternoon, everyone.”
“I’m here to show my support for my friend, Craig,” he said. “As I mentioned to him earlier, we were friends first.”
“But I think (what’s) really important is his background, and I think, Rhonda, the same with you.”
“You know, as commissioners, we kind of work with the sheriff, but we’re kind of independent,” Ott said.
“As the chief law enforcement officer of the county, the sheriff has a big role. But the commission has to work with the sheriff. And I think coming from the police department, it’s going to be critically important because Craig has been there,” he said.
“He knows what the commissioners are dealing with, what they’re going to have to deal with in the future,” he said. “And that’s going to make it so much better for the commissioners, especially with having three new commissioners in the roles.”
“So I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for Craig and Rhonda to continue that great bond that the sheriff’s office has had with the county. There are not many counties in the state where the sheriff has not sued the county commission,” Ott said. “And I think that with Craig, coming from the police department and having his background and with Rhonda’s experience, that we’re going to continue that great relationship that the sheriff’s office has had with the commission.”
“So I wish you the best of luck, both of you in your new positions. And it’s an honor to be here,” said Ott.