Rockdale County’s new sheriff, Eric Levett, is congratulated after taking the oath of office in ceremonies held Sunday evening at the Rockdale Auditorium. Levett, surrounded by family members, was administered the oath by Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein.
CONYERS — An election that captured the attention of Rockdale residents for more than half the year was the biggest story in Rockdale County in 2012.
The election story — which included a dramatic sweep of Democrats elected to county offices — culminated Sunday evening with the swearing in of the newly elected and re-elected.
The historic sea change in leadership saw five Democrats elected to fill positions previously long held by Republicans. Democrats elected to replace Republicans were Sheriff Eric Levett, Magistrate Court Judge Phinia Aten, Probate Court Judge Charles Mays, Tax Commissioner Rakeim Hadley and Coroner George Levett. In addition, incumbent Democrats Ruth Wilson, clerk of courts; Richard Oden, chairman of the Board of Commissioners; and Oz Nesbitt, Post 1 commissioner, successfully defended challenges by Republicans. In nonpartisan races, State Court Judge Nancy Bills was re-elected without opposition, and Robert Mumford was elected Superior Court judge, filling the seat previously held by the retiring Senior Judge Sidney Nation.
Hundreds of family members, friends and well-wishers gathered at the Rockdale Auditorium Sunday evening for a ceremony swearing in Rockdale’s newly-elected and re-elected officials.
Emcee Karyn Greer, an anchor with 11 Alive news, commented on the historic nature of the event and the outpouring of support for the elected officials.
“Wow, what a full house!” she exclaimed as she opened her remarks, adding, “Rockdale County actually turns the page of history, with the swearing in and installation of its newly elected officials on this Sunday, Dec. 30.”
Greer also noted the historic significance of the “slate of eight African American Democrats” who were being sworn into office Sunday. For five of those offices — sheriff, coroner, Magistrate Court judge, Probate Court judge and tax commissioner — it is the first time they will be held by an African American.
“This is truly a day to rejoice and be proud here in Rockdale County,” she said.
Adding to the historic nature of the event, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein was on hand to administer the oath of office to each new and returning official.
The crowd shared its enthusiastic support, standing and cheering before and after each was called forward to take the oath. Sheriff Eric Levett received the longest and strongest reaction from the crowd, likely due to the nature of his election, which was finally determined by a recount in November.
A campaign season that began before the primaries in July and included numerous candidate forums through the summer and fall, came down to just a handful of votes in the race for Rockdale County sheriff.
At the end of the Nov. 6 General Election balloting, incumbent Jeff Wigington held a razor-thin 18-vote lead over Levett, who was an officer in the Sheriff’s Office.
A final count of provisional and mail-in ballots from military personnel and overseas civilians three days later reversed the unofficial results, giving Levett a 34-vote edge over Wigington, a 16-year incumbent.
A recount, conducted one week after the General Election balloting, changed the earlier results by two votes, confirming a Levett win with a 32-vote margin.
At the conclusion of Sunday evening’s swearing-in ceremony, Greer reminded those in the audience that the campaigns were over and the oaths had been taken, but those in elected office would still need their support.
“It’s very important that the process doesn’t end here tonight,” she said.