Victor Hill's critics underestimated his popularity

11:54 PM, Aug 22, 2012   |    comments
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Re-elected Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill (File Photo)

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. -- "We don't have a problem in this jail with gang related activity. If there is a gang, you're looking at the leader."

That was Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill back in 2005, giving a tour of the bootcamp justice his jail would become famous or infamous for. Back then, inmates had to stand nose to the wall at attention whenever the sheriff was on deck.

"Leaders need to lead from the front," said Hill at that time. "I think that's very important. That's why I walk the jail anytime at night; that's why I patrol the county."

Those nose-to-the-wall images are the ones Hill's supporters never forgot.  His get-tough, "lead from the front" approach, made him stand out against the more traditional style of sheriff Kem Kimbrough, who beat Hill four years ago but lost in the rematch.

"When he was in office he kept crime down a lot of people were afraid to do certain stuff," said resident Jay Smooth, whose a barber.

If you want the news. turn on the tv.  If you want the real news go to the barbershop.

"We need a safe place, we need a safer place," said barber Sunni Wolfe.  "In Clayton County has really gone down since the last time he was in office."

The buzz here was that many outside of Clayton County, underestimated both Hill's popularity and his legacy as a sheriff eager to fight crime.

"I like him," agreed barber Alvin Doss.  "I like his get up and good you know."

Ex-inmates still talk about the humiliation of having to stare at the wall during Hill's tenure over the jail. Supporters say when the criminals are afraid of going to jail, the sheriff must be doing something right.

"He did a good thing with running the jail but he did positive things in the community with deterring crime," said Michael Pinkston, who owns Pezzy Cuts.  As a businessman, he said having a sheriff who wants to actively fight crime helps the community overall. 

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