Behind the badge: Millsap fulfills 'dream,' 'destiny' of being sheriff
by Jessica Loeding
Jan 28, 2013 | 3255 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap celebrates with his supporters after winning a fourth term in July. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, File
Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap celebrates with his supporters after winning a fourth term in July. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, File
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Sheriffs across the country have made headlines and social media sites in recent weeks with letters and statements concerning gun control. Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap this week spoke out in support of Second Amendment rights after proposed legislation from federal officials was announced.

“I’ve taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and of this state,” he said Thursday. “Nowhere that I can read in the Constitution does it deny the right for the Second Amendment for a citizen to bear arms unless they’re a convicted felon ... . I will do everything in my power to see that no one — no one — messes with Bartow County’s right to bear arms.”

Beginning his fourth term, Millsap believes his career path comes from a higher calling.

“When I was a kid, it was my dream — always, I guess, my destiny. If you believe when you’re born God has a plan for your life, God’s plan for Clark Millsap was to be sheriff of Bartow County,” he said.

The father of three comes from a family in public service — his father, Carlos; brother, Carey; and sister, Beverly, are in law enforcement. Millsap’s brother, Craig, serves as Bartow County fire chief.

Beginning his law enforcement career in 1984, Millsap spent five years as a patrol deputy and investigator with the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office and 11 years with Cartersville Police Department with patrol and investigations.

Elected to his first term as sheriff in 2000, Millsap is a member of the National Sheriff’s Association, the Georgia Sheriff’s Association and the Georgia Jail Association.

Having said he would run until the citizens wouldn’t elect him anymore, Millsap said in July he plans to retire in 2020 should he win a fifth term in 2016.

“I don’t feel like I’m done giving back. I don’t feel like I’ve given back enough of what [the public has] given to me.”

Name: Clark Millsap

Age: 50

City of Residence: Cartersville

Occupation: Bartow County sheriff

Family: Wife, Lori; three sons, David, Zach and Logan

Education: 1980 Cass High School, 1984 Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from University of West Georgia, which was called West Georgia College at the time.

Why law enforcement? What led you to be sheriff?

A: When I was a kid, it was my dream — always, I guess, my destiny. If you believe when you’re born God has a plan for your life, God’s plan for Clark Millsap was to be sheriff of Bartow County. It took me a while to get there, but ... anytime when your kids are playing cowboys and Indians, I always wanted to be the good guy. I grew up watching Westerns; I grew up watching John Wayne — he was always the good guy.

When I went to college, I played sports all my life, baseball, football, everything. Then I got to college and I had to decide what to major in, and that’s when it clicked, you know, criminal justice. It’s what I wanted to do — I wanted to be some type of law enforcement officer. They had a career day down in college and the FBI said you had to get some local experience.

When I graduated, my dad was on the sheriff’s posse then and he was in uniform, and he was working with the sheriff’s office when he wasn’t at his other full-time job. I’ve always been intrigued with law enforcement. I went and applied at the sheriff’s office, and Don Thurman gave me my first job back in 1984.

When I walked in his office the first day, I knew he was sitting in my chair. I didn’t have the guts to tell him my first day, but I knew that I was going to spend my career to work up to the dream of being the sheriff of this county. I worked hard for 16 years, and the opportunity arose that he was retiring and, with the proper backing and a lot of prayers and family support and the support of this community, here I am.

If you believe in dreams and you believe in setting yourself goals, I have reached the pinnacle of what my career is.

What is the biggest obstacle facing law enforcement and your department?

A: The biggest obstacle we have right now is manpower. As population increases as far as citizen-wise — and we’ve got LakePoint coming, we’ve got Bass Pro Shops coming, we’ve got all these developments coming to Bartow County — you have to keep a balance of, you’ve got over 103,000 people in this county now. You’ve got a sheriff’s office that’s got 260 employees. Manpower is a huge issue. We’ve got deputies who go on duty and don’t stop until it’s time to go home and another shift can replace them because they’re answering call after call.

Manpower is our largest problem right now.

Is there a situation you would have handled differently? Any regrets?

A: I never look back and try to second-guess myself. I’ve always been that way. Is there some things in my career or as the sheriff? Either?

That’s a tough one. I wasn’t expecting that question. I don’t really have any regrets. There’s probably some things that I could have handled differently in some situations. There might be some things that I was doing back when I worked investigations that I should have went maybe an extra step.

There are a couple of cases that haunt me from years gone [by]. One was a child abuse case where the guy didn’t get the sentence he should have gotten, and I used to blame myself because, I mean, I had him nailed. When I finally realized I had done the best I can do as far as bring the charges and then you’ve got an attorney who takes it in front a jury and the jury only convicts him on this and they threw a couple of other out ... that used to really bother me. I wouldn’t get what I thought, after I did the work and had the case prepared, it used to bother me they wouldn’t get the sentence I thought they should get. Anybody that abuses a child, or anybody that molests a child, is just …

There’s just some things in some cases that I used to second-guess myself about — “Should I have went an extra step to get them sent to prison for life?” or something like that.

Gun control has made headlines, with several sheriffs across the country speaking out against proposed legislation. What is your stance on gun control?

A: See, my problem is, I don’t work for the federal government. I’ve taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and of this state, the state of Georgia. Nowhere that I can read in the Constitution does it deny the right for the Second Amendment for a citizen to bear arms unless they’re a convicted felon or some other conviction. I am one who believes in the Second Amendment, and anybody who is a law-abiding citizen has the right to protect himself and his family and his property. I will do everything in my power to see that no one — no one — messes with Bartow County’s right to bear arms.

These laws that’re coming down — I’m not going to say if they ever are going to come to fruition — I’m not going to say I disagree with a couple of them. I mean, I agree with the background checks. You should have to go through a complete background check before you’re allowed to have a carry permit or you’re allowed to go buy a gun. I don’t have a problem with a couple of those. But if you have passed your background check and you want to buy you an AR-15 or you want to buy you a semiautomatic assault rifle, then you got the right to do that.

I do not agree with everybody having to send someone to somebody’s house to say, “OK, I need to see your guns.” No. That’s private property. If I don’t have a reason to be there on an emergency or some type of law enforcement call, I’m not going to go to your house [and say], “Let me see your guns.” You’ve got a gun carry permit, you’re a United States citizen, you’ve never been convicted of a felony, then you can have whatever gun you want as along as it meets the requirements, legally.

Now you can’t have automatic weapons unless you’ve got a federal firearms permit. You can’t have silencers or anything like that. If you’re obeying the law and you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, then you can have whatever gun you can have, and I’m all for that.

If you weren’t sheriff, what else would you do? What is your dream job?

A: I don’t really know. God put me on this earth to be sheriff of this county. That’s my testimony. But he also put me on this earth to be in law enforcement. I’ve thought about, “Well, what are you going to do when you retire? Or, if you were to lose an election, what would you do?” I don’t really know what I would do. I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I’m here.

What makes Bartow special?

A: It’s my home. … I’ve lived here all my life. I grew up here. I grew up with these people around here. I went to school here. This is where my roots are. … I’ve never lived anywhere else. I wouldn’t want to go nowhere else. It’s just the greatest county in the world to live in. I just love this place. I don’t want to go nowhere else.

When my wife and I first got married, she was a nurse and she worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital down in Atlanta. ... She wanted to move closer to work, and I said, “I can’t move.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because I’m going to be sheriff of this county one day.” This is my home.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

A: That I’m a good cook. I love to cook. I mean, I love to eat my own cooking. Can’t you tell? It’s a relaxing thing for me.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

A: Treat people how you want to be treated until they won’t let you treat them that way.

What is your favorite meal?

A: My favorite meal has to be chicken wings. My chicken wings.

Who would play Clark Millsap in the movie?

A: Oh my Lord. Somebody 5-8 and bald. No, I’m kidding. Who would play Clark Millsap in the movie? Maybe Kevin Spacey.