WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Georgia's longest-serving Sheriff is recovering from an illness that's kept him off the job for weeks.
Houston County Sheriff Cullen Talton's son, Neal, confirmed to 13WMAZ that the 91-year-old has been sick. The family did not state what illness the Sheriff has.
Talton's son says his father is now recovering in a rehab facility.
Meanwhile, there's a void in the Houston County Sheriff's Office with their leader for the past 50 years out of the office for several weeks.
"We're hopeful he'll be back soon," Chief Deputy Billy Rape said.
Rape has been by Sheriff Cullen Talton's side from the very beginning.
"January 1, 1973, we were sworn in a minute after midnight. I've been with him ever since," Rape said.
Back then, the Sheriff's Office had a little over two dozen employees.
"We had one jailer. His wife did the cooking for all the inmates. We started off at that," Rape said. "Now, we're 362, 363 strong. We have 157 jailer positions."
The Chief Deputy says over the past 50 years, he's also seen Talton grow as a Sheriff--learning the basics of how to operate the office in the early 1970s to now, being the state's longest serving sheriff.
Rape says Talton's success is based on a standard he set for him and his team in the very beginning.
"He says what will determine how long we stay here is how we treat people. He was a big believer in doing our job but treating them as you would want to be treated or your family to be treated," Rape said.
He says that now is reflected in the Sheriff's Office even when Talton is out of his office recovering.
"The men and women here are totally dedicated to him. and this department," Rape said. "The employees here want him back. So we're hoping every day he'll get a little better."
Chairman Dan Perdue told 13WMAZ the Sheriff's Office hasn't missed a beat since Talton has been out.
So far, there's no talk of him stepping down or retiring.
Houston County leaders, like Perdue and Chief Deputy Billy Rape, say they're hopeful he'll return to work.
Talton's son says the Sheriff is improving every day.