It has been almost a year since the Peach County Sheriff's Office lost two of its officers. As the community works to recover, they are celebrating Sheriff Terry Deese being named the Georgia Sheriff of the Year.
"People are always coming up and telling me, 'I know you probably wanted to be sheriff your whole life.' I say, 'No, in fact, in my younger days, I spent most of my time running from the sheriff,'” says Sheriff Deese playfully.
He says he started out in law enforcement by accident when he was asked to help during a winter storm. Now almost 35 years later, he was named the 2017 Georgia Sheriff of the Year.
"It was the first time I saw my name on the ballot,” recalls Deese.
He says he was surprised when he was notified by mail that he was nominated and even more surprised when he won.
Many people in Fort Valley say they know Sheriff Deese well. James Khoury at Khoury's Menswear used to serve as a county commissioner and says he has known the sheriff for years.
"He deserves that award. He's a very deserving man. He's very humble but he was great to work with. He'll continue to do a good job for our county as he always has,” says Khoury.
Deese says 2016 was his toughest test as sheriff after two officers, Sergeant Patrick Sondron and Deputy Daryl Smallwood, died in the line of duty.
"It's really bittersweet for me because I grew up in the sheriff's office and it's truly an honor to be selected, but the tragedies we had to go through, it's just bittersweet. If I could trade it all in and undo those tragedies, I wouldn't hesitate,” says Deese.
He says it is a tragedy even 35 years on the force could not prepare him for, but Sheriff Deese says it is something they are getting through with the help of the community.
Sheriff Deese also serves as the President of the Georgia Sheriff's Association. Deese has been the sheriff for nearly 12 years and served as chief deputy for about 19 years before that.