Command Staff

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Name: William Smith
Rank: Lt. Colonel
Assignment: Commander of Head Quarters Operations
Phone Number: 678-493-4155

Lt. Colonel William J. Smith is currently the Commander of Head Quarters Operations at the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office.  He started his career with the Sheriff’s Office in 1999 after graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Jersey City State College.  He currently has a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Southwest University and a second Master’s Degree in Public Administration, at the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College in Columbus Georgia.

Lt. Colonel Smith is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy, class #257.  His assignments with the Sheriff’s Office began at the Adult Detention Center where he became a DTO (Detention Training Officer). Lt. Colonel Smith then moved onto various Precincts in Uniform Patrol where he became an FTO (Field Training Officer), Warrant/Civil Unit Commander, joined the agency’s SWAT TEAM where he held the position of Swat Commander, held the position of Agent with CMANS (Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad) and Training Director for the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office.

Name: John New
Rank: Major
Assignment: Director of Drug Enforcement – Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad
Phone Number: 678-493-4200

Major John New began his career with Cherokee County in 1993 as a 911 Dispatcher. Major New eventually went on to work as a Deputy Sheriff in the Adult Detention Center, Uniform Patrol, and Narcotics Investigations.

Major New joined the Agency’s SWAT Team in February of 2000, where is he served for over 20 years, the last 8 of which he served as the Commander.  Major New is a graduate of the Professional Management Program, hosted by Columbus State University.

Major New has a Bachelors’s Degree in Business Administration from Reinhardt University where he graduated with honors.  Major New earned a Master’s Degree in Public Safety Administration from Columbus State University.

Major New graduated from the 261st Session of the FBI National Academy.

Name: Charles McMahan
Rank: Major
Assignment: Commander of Special Projects
Phone Number: 678-493-4150

Major McMahan began his career with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office in 1993, after being Honorably Discharged from the United States Navy.  He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Organizational Management – Leadership from Reinhardt University.

Major McMahan holds a Master’s Degree in Public Safety Administration through Columbus State University’s Command College Program.  Captain McMahan previously served in the Uniform Patrol Division.

Name: Mark Anderson
Rank: Major
Assignment: Field Operations Commander, SWAT Commander
Phone Number: 678-493-4200

Major Mark M. Anderson has worked at the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office for 18 years and his current assignment is the Commander of Criminal Investigations and commander of the agency S.W.A.T. team.  He is responsible for supervising the Criminal Investigations Divison, Uniform Patrol Division, and Special Operations Division. Prior to his law enforcement career, Major Anderson served 6 years in the United States Marine Corps.

Major Anderson is a graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety School of Police Staff and Command and has completed the Columbus State University Professional Management Program.  Major Anderson has a Bachelors’ Degree from Reinhardt University.

Name: Daniel P. Higgins
Rank: Major
Assignment: Commander of Jail Operations
Phone Number: 678-493-4200

Major Daniel Higgins currently serves as the Commander of Jail Operations

Major Higgins’ career began in 1997 with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office after serving four honorable years in the United States Marine Corps. Major Higgins started in the Adult Detention Center and throughout his career, he served in many leadership roles including supervisor of the county’s Traffic Unit, Uniform Patrol Precinct Commander, Internal Affairs Supervisor, and Assistant Team Leader on the S.W.A.T Team. He spent time in the Narcotics Division as well. He holds a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Operational Management Leadership from Reinhardt University, a Master of Public Safety Administration from Columbus State University and is a graduate of the Columbus State University Professional Management Program. Major Higgins has Supervision and Managerial POST certifications.

Name: Chris Sims
Rank: Captain
Assignment: Court Services Commander
Phone Number: 678-493-6180

Captain Sims began his law enforcement career in 1997 with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office in the Adult Detention Center. Captain Sims has served in many leadership roles including Precinct Commander over two precincts, Assistant Division Commander in Criminal Investigations, Assistant Division Commander for Training Unit and Internal Affairs Supervisor. Captain Sims was assigned to the Multi-Agency SWAT team for 18 years, where he was the Sniper Team Leader. He holds a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Organizational Management-Leadership from Reinhardt University, a Master of Public Safety Administration from Columbus State University and is a graduate of the Columbus State University Professional Management Program. Captain Sims holds multiple POST certifications to include state General Instructor and Firearms Instructor.

Name: John Gunning
Rank: Captain
Assignment: Director of Training
Phone Number: 678-880-4843

Captain John Gunning is the Director of Training at the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office. His responsibilities include developing, implementing and managing all training and education for the Sheriff’s Office. He began his law enforcement career with the Rome Police Department in 1996 as a Patrol Officer and continued working in law enforcement narcotics interdiction while serving with the military until 2016. Upon his military retirement, Captain Gunning joined the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office after serving for 28 years in the United States Army and National Guard.

Captain Gunning retired as the Brigade Command Sergeant Major of the 201st Regional Support Group Homeland Response Force and has over 24 years of law enforcement experience ranging from uniformed patrol to narcotics interdiction. Captain Gunning is a graduate of The United States Army’s Sergeants Major Academy and holds numerous law enforcement and military instructor certifications.

Captain Gunning holds a Bachelor’s degree.

Name: Kimberly Thompson
Rank: Captain
Assignment: Commander of Office of Professional Standards
Phone Number: 678-493-4200

Captain Thompson started her law enforcement career with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office in 1994 as a CMANS Agent. Throughout her career, she has served in leadership roles in these departments; Uniform Patrol, Adult Detention Center, Criminal Investigation.  Captain Thompson is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, class #235.  She holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Business Administration from the University of Southern Indiana, a Master of Public Administration from Columbus State University and is a graduate of the Columbus State University Professional Management Program.

Captain Thompson has two children and is active in the Boys Scouts of America. She also participates in her community social organization.

Name: Jay Baker
Rank: Captain
Assignment: Director of Communications and Community Relations
Phone Number: 678-493-4200

Captain Jay Baker is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County and has worked for the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office over 26 years. After graduating from Cherokee High School Captain Baker attended the University of Georgia were he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice before beginning his career with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office. Captain Baker also obtained a Master’s Degree from Columbus State University.

Prior to becoming the agency’s Public Information Officer, Captain Baker worked in the Adult Detention Center, Uniform Patrol Division, the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad and in Criminal Investigations. Captain Baker is the Director of Communications and Community Relations for the agency. He is responsible for dealing with media and public requests for information. Captain Baker also manages the agency’s social media to include Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

He is married and the father of three children. Captain Baker is a member of Sixes United Methodist Church.

Name: Pete Turcotte
Rank: Captain
Assignment: Commander of Special Operations
Phone Number: 678-493-4200

Captain Pete J. Turcotte has worked at the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office for 21 years and is currently assigned as the Commander of Special Operations. His command encompasses the Traffic Enforcement Unit, Motor Cycle Unit, K9 Unit, Hostage Negotiation Team, Warrant Unit, Strike Team, The Reserve Unit, and Crime Suppression. Captain Turcotte has served in many different aspects within the agency, including Uniform Patrol, Criminal Investigations, Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad, and the Traffic Enforcement Unit. He is currently working on his Bachelors’ Degree through Reinhardt University.

Name: Erik Britt
Rank: Captain
Assignment: Commander of Administrative Services
Phone Number: 678-493-4200

Captain Erik Britt currently serves as the Commander of the Administrative Services Division. Captain Britt began his career with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office in 1998. Prior to his current assignment, Captain Britt worked in the Adult Detention Center, Court Services, and Uniform Patrol, among his other assignments.

Captain Britt holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Liberty University and a Master of Public Administration degree from Reinhardt University. In addition, Captain Britt holds multiple POST certifications to include Intermediate, Advanced, Senior Deputy, Supervisory, and Managerial certificates.

Name: Irene Ruiz
Rank: Captain
Assignment: Commander of Operational Support
Phone Number: 678-493-4200

Captain Irene Ruiz currently serves as the Commander of the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center. She has served with the Sheriff’s Office since she began her career in 2003. She is a graduate of the Columbus State University Professional Management Program and holds her Master’s Degree in Public Safety Administration from Columbus State University. A Native Floridian, she holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminology and Law from the University of Florida.

Captain Ruiz is a certified Detention Training Officer and graduated Basic Peace Officer Certification in 2004. Captain Ruiz is a certified Georgia POST General Instructor, POST Firearms Instructor, Taser Instructor, Nationally Certified Ethics Instructor, Certified Hostage Negotiator, and Certified De-Escalation Instructor. She has prior experience with the Hostage Negotiation Team for eight (8) years. In 2006, she was privileged to have been part of the team when it was recognized by Governor Sonny Perdue at the State Capitol for obtaining Georgia Crisis Intervention Team certification. Captain Ruiz was appointed as the Jail’s Accreditation Manager and in 2019, with the coordinated efforts of ADC Staff and jail accreditation personnel; the Triple Crown Award was achieved. A status so rare for a sheriff’s office to attain, it made Cherokee Sheriff’s Office the 46th Sheriff’s Office in the nation to have been awarded such an honor. Captain Ruiz served over nine (9) years as night shift watch commander of the Adult Detention Center prior to assuming her jail administration duties.

Name: Lee Hands
Rank: Captain
Assignment: Criminal Investigations Division Commander
Phone Number: 678-493-4200

A veteran of 19 years, Captain Hands has investigative and supervisory experience in almost all facets of investigations to include homicides, rape, robbery, undercover operations, gang investigations, narcotics, firearms, and human trafficking.  He was the 2011 CSO Investigator of the Year, holds two Sheriff’s Office Unit Citations, and was the Academic Award recipient of his academy class.

Captain Hands holds multiple collateral assignments within the agency including Sniper on the Cherokee Multi-Agency SWAT Team, General Instructor, Firearms Instructor, and Defensive Tactics Instructor.  He attended the Columbus State University Professional Management Program and is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree.  Captain Hands volunteers with the Cherokee High School Wrestling Team as an assistant coach and helps raises money for pediatric cardiac research through Team Trevor, a charitable group founded by his son.

Name: Todd Shinall
Rank: Captain
Assignment: Uniform Patrol West Commander
Phone Number: 678-493-4200

Name: David Simmons
Rank: Captain
Assignment: Uniform Patrol East Commander
Phone Number: 678-493-4200

Captain David Simmons started with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office in February of 1995.  He worked in the Adult Detention Center for a time before transferring to Uniform Patrol.  In 1997 He was promoted to Corporal and assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division.  In 2002 Captain Simmons was promoted to Sergeant and served as the Evening Watch Commander of the newly formed Bridgemill Precinct.  In 2004 Captain Simmons was transferred back to Criminal Investigations where he headed up the Domestic Violence Unit and was the Evening Shift Supervisor.  In 2014 Captain Simmons was promoted to Lieutenant and was assigned to be the Precinct Commander of the Free Home Precinct.

Captain Simmons received his certification in Professional Management Program from Columbus State in 2005 and 2014.  Captain Simmons has also received his Supervisory Certification through P.O.S.T. and is working toward completion of Intermediate and Advanced Certifications.  Captain Simmons has completed numerous specialized training classes.  Captain Simmons is currently seeking a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice at Liberty University.

He rides touring motorcycles as a hobby and has ridden in all of the lower 48 states more than once.  Captain Simmons has been married to his wife, Pattie, for 37 years.  They have four adult children and nine grandchildren.

Name: Walter Jones
Rank: Captain
Assignment: Commander – Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad
Phone Number: 678-493-4265

Captain Jones is a law enforcement veteran of 17 years and has served in several divisions within the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office including the Adult Detention Center, Uniform Patrol Division, Criminal Investigations Division, and the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad.

Captain Jones is the current Board Chairman of Drug-Free Cherokee, a current board member of Cherokee FOCUS, and a graduate of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce Leadership Cherokee program (2020-2021 “The Best Class”).  Captain Jones earned a Bachelors’s Degree in Business Administration from Reinhardt University and a Master’s of Public Safety Administration from Columbus State University and is a graduate of The Georgia Law Enforcement Command College. Captain Jones also holds Supervisory and Management certifications through the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council.