Catoosa County Manager Mike Helton has begun an unpaid leave of absence so he can campaign full time for county sheriff.
Helton will be off from Friday, the day he qualified for the race, until at least July 31, the date of the primary election.
While Helton is on leave, county Human Resources Director Ann Cain will fill in as interim county manager.
Helton said he's not required to take a leave of absence. He said he typically works 10- to 11-hour days, and that doesn't leave time for campaigning.
"I don't campaign while I'm working," Helton said.
Cain has worked five years for Catoosa County, which has 420 employees, about 300 of whom are full time. Most of the county's employees work for the sheriff's department.
Before coming to Catoosa County, Cain did human resources work for the Atlanta office of Houston-based BMC Software Inc. and for Georgia Pacific.
Cain said she doesn't plan to make any changes in Helton's absence. If he wins the sheriff's race, he'll still come back to work as county manager before taking office.
"I want him to be able to float right back in," Cain said.
Five Republican candidates, including Helton, are seeking the seat of Sheriff Phil Summers, who is retiring.
The others who qualified Friday are Lookout Mountain Drug Task Force Commander Larry C. Black; Catoosa County Sheriff Maj. Gary Sisk; retired Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Ben Scott and Fort Oglethorpe police officer Jeff Holcomb.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.