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New sheriff takes office
Change at helm first for agency in 12 years
Forsyth County Probate Court Judge Lynwood Woody Jordan Jr., left, congratulates Duane Piper after administering his oath of office as sheriff. Cindy Piper is at right. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Forsyth County’s new sheriff officially took office Tuesday with an aim of making a smooth transition.

Residents shouldn’t expect to notice an immediate difference as Duane Piper takes over, though some changes likely will take place within the first four months.

“They should not expect any fallout or adjustment period in their level of service,” Piper said. “We’re planning as such that there won’t be any type of lag time. They won’t have less service or be less safe.

“All they’ll see is steady improvement.”

Piper said his time spent in sheriff-elect school through the Georgia Sheriff’s Association gave him great information and got him even more excited to get going.

He has 30-, 90- and 120 -day plans for working toward his goal of increasing efficiency, which will begin by evaluating crime rates, trends and the organization of the agency.

“We’ll be going through an evolutionary process of observing and evaluating, followed by a significant restructuring agency-wide,” Piper said. “Of course, the aim and goal, the reason for all of it, is to improve our efficiency and our effectiveness.”

Piper won the post in the 2012 campaign season, during which his name appeared on the Republican primary ballot, the runoff for that contest and the general election.

He defeated three-term incumbent Sheriff Ted Paxton in an August runoff election and secured his spot against write-in candidate D.T. Smith in the November general election.

Piper ran on a platform of improving efficiency and reducing the office’s budget.

He has plans to do both of those, primarily through a restructuring, after spending some time to evaluate the agency.

The first changes will be in the command staff.

Piper named Mike Giordano as his chief deputy, a position held by Robbie Hamrick under Paxton’s administration.

Other than that post, Piper also created two new command staff positions that will replace previous ones.

Matt Hester will serve as director of courts and detention, while Rick Doyle will serve as director of operations.

Hester and Giordano currently work at the sheriff’s office — Hester in the training division and Giordano in patrol.

Doyle has been working with a law enforcement agency in Florida, but was once employed with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office in the early 2000s.

“The entire agency, once the restructuring is done, will fall under those three,” Piper said. “What I’m doing there is flattening some layers.”

Maj. Dan Jagoe will remain as the head of the criminal investigations division, and Maj. Paul Taylor will still head the uniform patrol division.

Personnel in the investigations division is expected to remain, providing no lapse in ongoing matters.

Piper said his biggest two issues to examine at the start of the year include the upcoming construction of a new jail and courthouse, as well as evaluating the role of the office in school safety.