But it was all in good fun.
Garrison was the roastee at the 10th annual Malon D. Mimms Boys & Girls Club charity roast benefit, which brought more than 500 officials, politicians and residents to the Cherokee County Conference Center and was expected to raise more than $80,000 for the club.
Longtime Atlanta radio personality Rhubarb Jones was the first roaster to turn the fire on Garrison, although he said he was reluctant to get involved.
“I told them when they wanted to roast Roger, I said ‘Y’all might as well go roast one of the apostles,’” Jones said, “‘because I can’t say nothing ugly about this guy.’”
But then, Jones said he heard about the time Garrison wouldn’t even let his own mother out of a speeding ticket.
“You gave your momma a ticket?” Jones asked Garrison in disbelief.
Garrison was quick to explain.
“She was speeding,” he said flatly.
After Jones, it was Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s turn to take a few shots at the sheriff. But Cagle didn’t get off too easily himself.
When introducing the lieutenant governor, the night’s emcee Jamie Bendall, owner of the Punchline Comedy Club, jokingly reminded Cagle of the lack of power in his position.
“You’re kind of like the substitute teacher of the state government,” Bendall said. “You’re working somebody else’s lesson plan and you hope you get to hang around for a few extra days.”
State Court Judge Alan Jordan also took advantage of his time at the mic to give Cagle the what-for.
“With God as my witness, until about 15 minutes ago, I didn’t even know Georgia still had a lieutenant governor,” the judge joked.
Cagle didn’t spend much time defending himself and instead lit right into Garrison.
“To be here tonight to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club, there’s no greater cause in my mind, and to be here to roast Sheriff Garrison, now that’s fun,” Cagle said.
Cagle said he’d just come from Macon where he attended a conference honoring Georgia’s Sheriff of the Year.
“Roger wasn’t there; he’s not the sheriff of the year, in case you didn’t know,” he joked. “He’s up here in handcuffs. This is the sheriff you guys have honored.”
Vernon Keenan, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, was also chosen to be one of the roasters for the evening.
He spoke highly of the sheriff, both backhandedly and honestly.
“I’ve known Roger throughout his law enforcement career, and I’ve told him privately before that I work with every sheriff in the state of Georgia … and I consider him to be the finest,” Keenan said. “Of course, I was drinking when I said that.”
When Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor Rebecca Johnston’s turn came up to give Garrison a little playful bashing, the topic that many appeared to be waiting for came up: the time then-Cherokee School District Spokesman Mike McGowan told a deputy during a traffic stop that he had just come from Garrison’s house, and was wearing a pair of the sheriff’s pants.
“There is never any doubt about who wears the pants at Roger’s house,” Johnston said. “But that was before Mike McGowan came along.”
Johnston said McGowan had been staying at Garrison’s house during a snowstorm because he was stranded in town.
“I’m not sure what the two of them were up to,” she joked. “That’s one of those little mysteries about Roger.”
While all five of the roasters did their best to cut the sheriff deep, all expressed their gratitude for Garrison’s work for Cherokee County for the past two decades.
And no love appeared to be lost when Garrison addressed the packed house for the charity event, although he took his own jabs at his playful detractors.
He even presented both Johnston and Jordan, who also mentioned the pants issue, with their own pair of sheriff pants.