Waynesboro High School grad runs for sheriff in community that raised him
By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
WAYNESBORO — Community is not just a word Chris Johnson chooses to speak during his campaign for sheriff of the River City.
Johnson is running for the office in the community he grew up in and has always called home.
Johnson attended William Perry Elementary School, Kate Collins Middle School and graduated from Waynesboro High School in 2011.
After briefly attending Blue Ridge Community College, he said he had a few friends who worked in law enforcement so he applied for a position with Waynesboro Police Department. He was 21 years old.
He was offered and accepted the position, “and I never went back [to college].”
“Once I got into it, I realized I enjoyed it,” Johnson said.
He is able to relate to Waynesboro youth because it was not that long ago that he was their age.
Johnson said he would like to “break that rule” for youth that cool people do not become cops.
Johnson’s wife, Taylor Dewitt Johnson, also grew up in Waynesboro, but they did not meet until later. The couple live in Waynesboro and have a 7-month-old daughter, Hayden.
If elected, Johnson said he would like to bring the community and the police department together.
“You need to have that community relationship,” he said.
Johnson said he chose to run for sheriff because, once he got into law enforcement, he wanted to help people, and it would mean a lot to him to be elected sheriff in the community that raised him, the community that made him the man he is today.
“Sheriff is a position where I think you need to be an approachable person [on and off duty],” Johnson said.
He said he thinks he has the connections necessary in the community to bring everyone together.
“So, the community understands who you are [as police officers]. Hopefully, they know they can lean on you when times get tough.”
He would like to restart youth programs with the Waynesboro YMCA and other organizations to encourage youth not to be afraid of police.
“We’re a small enough community” to make it possible for youth and members of the community to be on a first-name basis with members of Waynesboro Police Department for positive reasons, not when they are on the wrong side of the law.
Johnson said he would like for Waynesboro youth to have opportunities to tour court rooms “and see how the court system works. I don’t want the kids to see them the first time on a court matter.”
He also hopes that the fact he grew up in low-income housing in Parkway Village inspires youth to see that “they can do things bigger than I’ve done.”
The role of sheriff must “lead by example,” according to Johnson, and step up and do whatever is necessary to help out in the police department and community.
And Johnson wants to be a sheriff who is approachable.
“I work for the people that elected me and I want to serve everyone with the same respect.”
Johnson said that he would like the community to know he wants everyone to get along.
“My family comes first, but, secondly, the community that elected me,” Johnson said.
He chose to run Independent because he did not want to choose sides.
“Because, at the end of the day, like I said, we have to protect everyone.”