COVINGTON — Ken Malcom has spent roughly two-thirds of his life – and all of his adult life – in public safety. And he hopes to take everything he’s learned and experienced in that time to the next level as he seeks public office.
A captain in the Covington Police Department, Malcom scored a decisive victory in the Republican Primary in early June and will face incumbent Ezell Brown in the race for sheriff of Newton County in the General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Malcom was interviewed for this article by telephone, while Brown declined to be interviewed and instead submitted written answers to questions. Malcom said that illustrates his commitment to transparency.
“As sheriff you must always be prepared to answer questions about your department, and in this case about yourself,” said Malcom this week. “This is a key element in running a transparent agency. My answers for this interview were not scripted by others; they’re being answered immediately, and they’re from my heart.”
Malcom, 54, said he’s long considered a run for the county’s highest elected office but felt the time was finally right for him to make a move.
“This is something I discussed, prayed about and consulted with others about the majority of my career,” said Malcom. “It was all about timing – when is the right time?
“In the last three years, it’s been a topic of conversation with my family and friends and people within law enforcement and the courts. I’ve been getting advice and listening to people who were close to me. I felt like this is the time to put my name out there and put myself out there and ask the citizens of Newton County to consider me.”
The Social Circle native, who began his law enforcement career at the age of 18 with the Walton County Sheriff’s Department, has covered a variety of responsibilities in his long career with the Covington Police Department, not the least of which was overseeing the department’s considerable budget.
“I have managed a multi-million dollar law enforcement budget,” said Malcom, who announced his candidacy in January of 2019. “I managed our budget during the housing crash, when things got tight and difficult, so you had to make sure to do everything in your power to spend each penny wisely because of the limited resources you had.
“I did that effectively and it gave me a new skill set, so that if I have the opportunity to manage a larger budget, I’ve got a great understanding of how to make that happen.”
A longtime proponent of the community policing model, Malcom’s tentpole slogan for his campaign is “For a safer Newton County.” When asked how he planned to effect increased public safety if he’s elected, Malcom pointed to collaboration with other law enforcement agencies in the county, a reallocation of funding to get more deputies on the road and an aggressive recruiting program to increase staffing.
“First things first, get deputies and staff the tools they need to be successful, and that starts with pay and training and equipment,” he said. “That has to be a priority because the people on the front line are the backbone of your organization… We are in a crisis in law enforcement, and in our community especially with the sheriff’s department on staffing.”
In terms of recruiting deputies and staffers, Malcom pointed to the dozens of law enforcement personnel who live in Newton County but don’t work here.
“We’ve got so many people living in Newton County that work for other law enforcement agencies,” said Malcom. “They are protecting citizens of other communities. I want to recruit those folks – there are hundreds living in Newton County protecting other areas. I want to recruit them to come home and protect their home.”
Malcom assents that campaigning in the age of the coronavirus pandemic has been tricky, but a strong social media presence has been key to getting his message out.
“Like every other candidate running for every other office in this country, we’ve had to make adjustments,” he said. “Utilizing social media has been a huge part of our campaign. You’ve got to have a strong social media campaign for whatever job you’re running for in 2020 because you can’t get out and see people through events and knocking on doors.
“It has become difficult to connect with folks, but I’m very pleased with our social media campaign – it has been the strongest campaign in our county. We are getting to folks, and we’ll continue as we get closer to November, when we’ll utilize some traditional means, with advertisements, mailers and phone calls.”
Although Malcom is opposing an incumbent seeking his fourth consecutive term, he’s not assuming “underdog” status in the race.
“I don’t feel like I’m an underdog,” he said. “I feel like I’m an applicant for a job, and every four years anyone that decides to run for office has to apply or reapply for their job. I would love to debate policies and practices and offer my ideas that are going to be different to the citizens.
“And I’m asking our community to take a hard look at my resume and what I’ve done in the past, look at my opponent’s resume and then make an educated decision on who you think is best to take the sheriff’s department into the future. If our citizens feel they’re better off now than four, eight or 12 years ago, they obviously need to pick (Brown). But if they are not happy with the service provided and they think it’s time to go in a different direction, then I’m an option.”
For more information, visit www.kenmalcomforsheriff.com.