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Heroes A SPECIAL PUBLICATION BY THE NEWNAN TIMES-HERALD

Among Us Celebrating Coweta County’s Public Service


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CCSO working smarter towards the future

PHOTO BY CLAY NEELY

In 1992, Sheriff Mike Yeager took on the role of sheriff and has spent a career attempting to balance the needs of his community and department with being a good financial steward. From left are, Major John Lewis, Lt. Col. Tony Grant, Col. Lenn Wood, Sheriff Yeager, Chief Deputy James Yarbrough, Lt. Col. Tony Brown, Major Mark Fenninger.


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PUBLIC SAFETY 2018 BY CLAY NEELY

clay@newnan.com

For the last quarter century, the buck of public safety has stopped at the desk of Sheriff Mike Yeager. Since beginning his career as a member of the Newnan Police Department in March 1980, Yeager has overseen the transformation of Coweta from a sleepy country county to a outlying suburb and bedroom community for metro-Atlanta – a place where the population is expected to reach 140,000 within the next 20 years. In 1992, Yeager took on the role of sheriff and has spent a career attempting to balance the needs of his community and department with being a good financial steward. The sheriff ’s office boasts a healthy K-9 program, patrol officers equipped with some of the best technology in the field, and an in-house crime lab often utilized by the GBI. It’s a far cry from the earliest days of Yeager’s role as sheriff, but it didn’t happen overnight. Like most change, it all starts with the basics. "When I first came in, we carried hodgepodge of weapons,” Yeager recalled. “The department owned a few – the revolver types – while individuals also bought and carried their own.” The variety of firearms in use became abundantly clear when Yeager shopped for ammo. Tasked with procuring ammunition from a .32 caliber to a 10mm, Yeager began the switch to a uniform piece for all officers and got started with Glock – a relatively new option at the time. “The trend was going away from .45 and revolvers,” he said. “By using a uniform weapon, if someone had a firefight, they could use the same clip and ammo. It’s all about familiarization.” When it came to body armor, most deputies had purchased them on their own dime. “Now it’s a standard issue piece of

gear,” Yeager said. “It’s the norm.” Soon, cameras inside patrol cars were introduced and in 2014, Coweta’s became the first sheriff ’s office in Georgia to utilize AXON on-body cameras while on duty. The result? “A lot fewer complaints from citizens about our deputies,” he said. “When someone has a complaint, we tell them we’ll review the footage. Once they learn it was all captured on camera, it usually dies down right there.” Fighting drug growth has been a longstanding duty of the sheriff ’s office. But with new deadly dangers like fentanyl and carfentanil, investigators need to quickly identify suspected narcotics in the field. Last year, the sheriff ’s office began using TruNarc handheld narcotics analyzers, which can identify 415 suspected illicit substances in a single, definitive test. Prior to the analyzers, investigators relied on reference books and the GBI crime lab to identify suspicious substances. The funding for the majority of tools utilized by the sheriff ’s office comes through drug-seized assets or community partnerships, like Petsmart who has helped ensure the sheriff ’s office K-9 program remains a healthy and robust force. The average cost of getting a new K-9 on board is around $10,500. This doesn’t include food, supplies or even the cage in the back of the patrol car. The funding is entirely provided through forfeitures, not tax dollars. Through the company’s national PetSmart Community Partnership, the company donated a total of $42,148 for the local K-9 program in 2016 and 2017. This year, the annual grant will allow another $10,000 to be donated. According to local PetSmart General Manager Andrew Buer, it’s an hon-

CCSO • 4


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PHOTO BY CLAY NEELY

Members of the Criminal Investigations Division from the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office handle a variety of cases from around the county including identity fraud, child abuse, and gangs. From left are Keith Claycomb, Sgt. Jae Robertson, Sgt, Chad McDonald, Inv. Anthony Grant, Lt. Elaine Jordan, Inv. Lee McGuffey, Lt. Jason Fetner, Capt. John Kennedy, Sgt. Mark Callahan, Inv. Bobby Crowdis, Inv. Brandon Thrower, Inv. Jacob Hebert, Inv. Troy Foles, Inv. Jason Brooks. Not pictured are Sgt. Ryan Foles and Sgt. Amy Hughes.

CCSO From page 3 or to be a small part of something that will make an impact in the community for many years to come. “The Coweta County Sheriff 's Office and their K-9 unit are essential to the safety and wellbeing of our community,” said Buer. “We are thrilled to sup-

port them.” With a plethora of resources in technology, Yeager maintains a firm eye on the financial bottom line of his department.

“Through asset forfeiture, grants and partnerships, we do everything possible to preserve our budget without having to ask taxpayers,” Yeager said. “I think so many people of this county

don’t understand all what we’ve obtained and it didn’t cost them a dime.”

While Yeager remains a reluctant participant in the digital age, he understands the needs of equipping personnel with the best tools to get the job done. “I don’t look at us as being cutting edge, I just feel if there is a product that can better help our officers and our

community, it’s worth taking a look at,” Yeager said. “But we’re not the only ones who utilize technology. “The bad guys are too, so you have to stay on top of those things. It’s a different world than it used to be. Technology is fantastic, but nothing takes the place of shoe leather police work. Officers have to talk to people, and listen to them. You get more information from canvassing your neighborhoods than anything.”


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PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

PHOTO BY CLAY NEELY

Along with the Newnan Police Department, The Coweta County Sheriff’s Office also provides deputies who work as Student Resource Officers at Coweta County schools. Front row from left are Dep. Tiffany Grier, Lt. Rodney Ison, Cpl. Chad Davis, Dep. Adam Elbrecht, Capt. Stephen Crook, Dep. Kevin Yarbrough, Cpl. Marty Houston, Cpl. E.J. Kee, and Lt. Jamie Hixson. Back Row from left are Sgt. Mike McGuffey, Sgt. Justin Funderburk, Cpl. Mitch McEachern, Dep. Joe Evans, Lt. Vence Meadows, and Sgt. Eddie Kirk.

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Senoia Police Department keeps their focus on the community

PHOTO BY CLAY NEELY

Despite the rapid growth of Senoia, Chief Jason Edens said the small-town approach to keeping the community safe remains the same. From left are Harold Simmons City Manger, Sgt. Chance Leveillard, Chief Jason Edens, Lt. Jason Ercole, Off. Bobby Mills and Major Steve Tomlin. BY CLAY NEELY

clay@newnan.com

When Chief Jason Edens came to Senoia as an officer back in 1994, it was a much different place than exists today. The once sleepy town is now a major tourist attraction that brings people from all across the globe to his town. Along with the tourism, the city is also growing in population. Several residential subdivisions are currently in the works and expected to bring hundreds more to Senoia. Despite the growth, Edens said his approach to keeping the community

remains the same. “We have a lot of good people in Senoia, but we have a lot of transient traffic too,” Edens said. “We get a great amount of support from our community. Civic clubs are generous to helping us out whenever they can.” City Manager Harold Simmons is a former officer and said the approach of SPD has made his extremely proud. “It’s a great place to be when a city manager can walk down the street and get compliments about the police department instead of complaints,” Simmons said.

Because Senoia has a unique downtown, having police visible allows the public to have the lines of communication open, Simmons said. As a result, he feels people see police as friends and that makes a difference. "When you can sit on the corner and talk to business owners and they know you by name, it changes how you operate,” Simmons said. "Yes you’ll have crime, but people see they’re hurting someone and it changes the dynamic.” Simmons said Senoia has become a melting pot. From lifelong residents to those who have recently arrived, he

believes they’re all in Senoia for the same reason – the culture. "Senoia has been able to merge the historic feeling with the film industry to that it works,” he said. Major Steve Tomlin preaches the importance of viability and approachability to his team. His approach? Get in the subdivisions, write reports with windows rolled down, and make residents comfortable. "If you’re sitting in a neighborhood writing a report, you’re killing three birds with one stone,” he said. “You’re SENOIA • 7


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SENOIA From page 6

impeding speeding, burglaries and handling paperwork." The same can be said for patrolling in the city. He likes to see officers on foot interacting with the public instead of sitting behind a car window. “It’s important for people to to see our officers in a non law enforcement capacity,” Tomlin said. “Not writing tickets, but talking to people. They need to be well rounded and that's something I think a lot of departments have lost. Back in the 1950's, you saw that all the time.” Edens said he’s very proud of the reputation of the Senoia Police Department, but said it’s not a one-horse show.

“Without the backing of major and council, I'm just spinning my wheels,” he said. “It's a good group of people who actually care about the city and the people in it. I can honestly say it makes me feel good about where we are. We have people who care and that’s why we’ve been so successful.” The city was recently named one of the safest places to live in Georgia by Safewise. Simmons said it all goes back to being living examples of community players. “Folks don’t just put on uniform and come to work behind tinted windows,” he said. "We are out in the community and the biggest thing we have going for us is people knowing our officers names. Its a mutual respect that has grown."

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PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

Grantville PD protects and serves through communication with citizens

PHOTO BY KANDICE BELL

Serving in the Grantville Police Department are, from left, Patrolman Matt Guy, Lt. Cliff Schriefer, Chief Steve Whitlock, Sgt. T.C. Nixon and Inv. Lawrence Ethridge. The Grantville PD has held community forums and spearheaded several community events in the past year.


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PUBLIC SAFETY 2018 BY KANDICE BELL

kandice@newnan.com

In recent years, the Grantville Police Department has worked to improve community and police department relations and even spearheaded some of the city’s community activities. “We’re just trying to get in the community and see what the citizens want to see in the department,” Grantville Police Chief Steve Whitlock said. In 2017, the police department hosted a series of Resident/Citizen Meetings to discuss techniques for decreasing burglaries, criminal trespassing and other citizen concerns. Other issues discussed included spotting signs of drug use and drug paraphernalia, Internet safety and gangs .The department also hosted firearm safety and women’s self defense classes, all for free. Lt. Cliff Schriefer said the idea for the classes came from the combination of requests from the community and ideas from the Grantville Police Department. The classes reached capacity quickly. “We strive to be approachable,” Schriefer said. “We’re human just like everyone else. Our job title is just different. We’re willing to sit down and communicate with the citizens.” Whitlock, who has been with the Grantville police for three years, said he’s seen a big change in the relationships between the officers and the community. “When I first got here, the community seemed to separated,” Whitlock said. “I met with different groups when I got here. The department has tried to pull them together and believe it or not, it’s

working.” Whitlock said he’s seen big change in Grantville, mainly because of the open line of communication between the community and police department. “We get out and work with people and try to get the problem solved,” Whitlock said. “It’s not me. It’s the whole department working together along with working with the community.” The Grantville PD has even spearheaded community events such as the Christmas tree lighting, Christmas parade, Easter egg hunt and Trunk-or-Treat. Whitlock and Schrieffer said the department organizes the events to help the community bond even more. Whitlock said the turnover of police officers has also improved. The department currently has 12 officers, an administrative assistant and one investigator. City Manager Al Grieshaber said he “believes the Grantville Police Department has evolved from community policing to community building.” “While GPD has served as the eyes and ears of our community, they’ve immersed themselves into the culture and fabric of our community by listening to the concerns of our residents, assisting and educating when necessary and appropriate while continuing to enforce the law,” Grieshaber said. “Their organizational skills, combined with their community involvement, has increased civic participation tenfold. Their ability to involve our residents in positive community oriented activities has helped the city of Grantville to remain a safe and affordable community.”

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Making prevention a key to Newnan’s public safety

PHOTO BY CLAY NEELY

As the Newnan Police Department enters its fourth year at their new facility, the department continues to focus on furthering officers’ training and becoming more involved with the community including a variety of outreach programs for local youth. “We just want to teach the kids about other things and how to be active in the community,” said Officer Edward Lee.


Heroes Among Us — The Newnan Times-Herald — 11

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018 BY TAYLOR ROBINS taylor@newnan.com

The idea behind Newnan’s public safety is to ensure the safety of all citizens and visitors of Newnan, while also helping with situations that are not criminal. Prevention is one of those situations when it comes to the Newnan Police Department. They are in their third year engaging with several outreach programs for local youth. “We want to reach these kids before they get in trouble,” said Newnan Police Chief Buster Meadows. “Give them something to do, showing them that there are different outlets and other ways to handle anger management.” Outreach programs are geared toward, but to limited to, at risk and foster youth. Headed by Corporal Edward Lee and Officer Adam Griffin, community resource officers, the police department

has three different programs: Guitars not Guns, Tennis for Success and the Law Enforcement Explorer Program. Guitars not Guns is an eight-week program where kids through the ages 8 through 18 can get guitar lessons with instructors. After the eight weeks are completed, the students are allowed to keep the guitars. After the initial eight weeks, students are allowed to come back for an additional eight weeks for a more advanced training. “When they realize that they can keep the guitar, they are usually excited,” said Meadows. According to Meadows, a turnaround in students’ attitudes happen with Guitars not Guns. Tennis for Success provides tennis equipment and lessons with instructors, for children 6 through 18. Students who participate in this program practice on the weekends. The

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students also compete in tournaments and participate in self-esteem programs and trash pickups. Lee explained the tennis program helps to teach youth about hard work and teamwork, which could help with schoolwork. “We just want to teach the kids about other things and how to be active in the community,” said Lee. The third program is geared toward career exploration, the Law Enforcement Explorer Program. “It’s teaching them things about law enforcement, and hopefully one day they’ll decide to go into law enforcement,” said Meadows. The program allows high school to college aged students to get hands-on experience, where they can ask questions and do various activities. Some of the activities include: traffic stops, simulators and courtroom experiences. The students get to explore the possibility of

a judge of lawyer career path, as well. An important point of the career path program is to show youth the other side of the criminal justice system, to teach the law, to show why it is important to look out for other people and to show why law enforcement jobs are so important. All three programs are free of charge and are funded through budget money, donations and fundraisers. The police department’s next fundraiser will be a golf tournament on May 10. NPD also has a Safe Kids Newnan/ Coweta program, where technicians check child safety seats. According to Lee, the police department is looking to launch other outreach programs. For anyone who may be interested in joining an outreach program, more information can be found at the Newnan Police Department or their Facebook page.

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NFD: A new chief, a new home BY MELANIE RUBERTI melanie@newnan.com

With a renovated firehouse and a new fire chief, 2018 has been a year of new beginnings for the Newnan Fire Department. In March, Stephen Brown was named new chief of the Newnan Fire Department. Brown, a 23year veteran, has spent his entire career with NFD and succeeds former Fire Chief David Whitley. Since coming aboard in 1995,

Brown has worked in every capacity at the fire department. Brown, along with wife LeeAnne and daughter Camilla Anne, reside in White Oak and have been lifelong residents of Newnan. “My father is a retired police chief, so I’ve grown up in the world of public safety,” he said. “It’s more than a job, it’s a way of life. Serving has been instilled in me from the start.” In 2018, NFD finally moved

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back into their firehouse, located in the old City Hall building, after it received a much-needed “facelift,” according to Battalion Chief Jeffrey Patterson. “Crews gutted the whole thing,” he said. “They put in new walls, took down old ones, repainted the rooms, the whole works.” Construction crews added living quarters so each firefighter and staff member on duty has his own, private room while

on shift. The rooms have beds, storage lockers and TVs. The bedrooms of ranked firefighters have work spaces with a desks. Workers also created three private bathrooms with showers and other amenities. Patterson said the biggest upgrade inside station one is a state-of-the-art kitchen. The room has more counter space, NFD • 14

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Heroes Among Us — The Newnan Times-Herald — 13

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NFD From page 12

a gas range, three refrigerators and pantries – one for each shift – plus a large table for firefighters to eat their meals. Crews opened up the area to add a new dayroom off the kitchen so firefighters can watch TV or hang out between calls. A second dayroom, still under construction, will give firefighters another area to relax, said Patterson.

Administrative offices, conference room, break room, walkway and extra storage space were also renovated on the second floor of the building. Workers replaced the old fire pole with a two-story slide. The apparatus starts outside the firefighters’ living quarters on the second floor and ends near the vehicle bay. It allows firefighters quick access to trucks and gear. Construction crews also refurbished a small gym inside the station.

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“We got all new equipment, weights and two new treadmills, and they installed a bathroom with a shower,” said Patterson. The renovations took about a year. Crews brought the older fire station up to code by installing sprinklers in the vehicle bay, adding more insulation, and creating more visitor parking spaces, Patterson said. The renovation project cost more than $2.3 million dollars, according to Patterson. The money came from a city fund. According to Patterson, the

upgrade was desperately needed. The fire station had not been renovated since Newnan firefighters moved into the building almost 40 years ago. “We’re really proud of it,” he said. “I like the kitchen, weight room and everything being new. It’s a new fire station. It’s almost like an entirely new building. Everyone just loves it. Morale is up big time.” The Newnan Fire Department is expected to begin construction on a new fire station off Millard Farmer Road in 2018.

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PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

Appreciation for public safety workers BY TAYLOR ROBINS taylor@newnan.com

Newnan Coweta Public Safety Foundation makes sure that those who work in public safety are properly thanked and appreciated, with the help of an annual luncheon and Public Safety Week. Norma Haynes, a community activist, started Public Safety Week after being a bailiff in Coweta County for several years in the 1980’s. Haynes’ love for public safety and the people who ensure it started in the courtroom. Haynes was the first woman bailiff in Coweta County. “I was in the courthouse, and I got close to the deputies and all who work there,” said Haynes about her experience as a bailiff. “I learned a lot about them and felt like they didn’t have the benefits that they should have. They were not appreciated for what they did. So I thought that this would be a good time to start something to show that they are appreciated by the community. And that the work that they do was very appreciated. So I came up with the first Public Safety Appreciation Luncheon and Week.” This year marks 20 years of the Public Safety Appreciation Lunch. This event Is put together for all people who serve in any area of public safety. The first luncheon

served around 30 people. The luncheon is held the last Thursday of April. With the help of the Newnan Coweta Chamber of Commerce, the word spread about the luncheon, generating “overwhelming” food and money donations. With the extra funds, Haynes was able to start the Newnan-Coweta Public Safety Foundation. The fund helps public safety workers with medical and financial hardships that come up. College or technical school scholarships, for the children of public safety workers, are also available. The fund also supplies departments with needed supplies. The non-profit organization, complete with a board of directors, is donation and volunteer based. The board of directors include Judy Bell, Lynn Blackburn, Gail Carnes, Tammy Cash, Pat Craven, Sheila Davis, Ruth Ann Embrey, Lisa Hines, Jim McGuffey, Earlene Scott and Marianne Thomasson. “I go to the county commissioners and the city council,” Haynes explained about Public Safety Appreciation Week. “I do every year, and ask them to proclaim the week before the luncheon as Public Safety Appreciation Week. And I ask that everybody put a loyal blue ribbon on their door or their mailbox,

NTH FILE PHOTO

Norma Haynes, the first woman bailiff in Coweta County, has such a love for public safety workers that she spearheaded Public Safety Appreciation Week and luncheon. With extra funds from the luncheons, Haynes was able to create the Newnan-Coweta Public Safety Foundation.

to indicate their support for public safety for that week. And the city council and the county commissioners have been so supportive. I can’t even begin to say how much I appreciate what they have done and how supportive they have been of us.” Last year, the foundation donated 200 DriWrite pads to the Coweta County Sheriff ’s Department, to aid in report making during inclement weather. The foundation donated $10,000 of equipment to the Newnan Police Department and body armor vest to the Coweta County Fire Department. Those are only a few of the good deeds done last year. Including

scholarships given and supplied Narcon, a life saving drug for people under the influence of drugs, the foundation raised and donated more than $30,000. All dollars raised and donated go toward public safety. “Without them, this city and county would be in a world of hurt,” said Haynes. “But we’ve got some dedicated people working in public safety, and I pray for them everyday.” Haynes stresses that people working in public safety are her heros. Donations can be sent to Newnan-Coweta Public Safety Foundation, P.O. Box 1113, Newnan, Ga., 30264.


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PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

CCFR: Always at the ready BY SARAH FAY CAMPBELL sarah@newnan.com

When there’s a fire, a crash, a hazardous materials spill, a serious injury or a medical emergency, the men and women of Coweta County Fire Rescue leap into action. Since 1973, the department has been responding to fires and other emergencies throughout Coweta County. In May of 2015, the department took over Coweta’s Emergency Medical Services, with department staff manning ambulances. The department has moved smoothly into providing transport medical services. After all, firefighters had been providing first line response to nearly all emergencies for years – as fire engines typically arrived at any scene before the ambulance. And the department operates three Advanced Life Support units, which can provide everything an ambulance can – except transportation. The vast majority of firefighters are either EMTs or paramedics. Last year, the department won a regional EMS award, and in February, the Coweta County Fire Rescue Department was named Emergency Medical Service of the Year for 2017 by the Georgia Association of Emergency Medical Services. In the fiscal year 2018 budget, Coweta County allocated money for 26 new fire department personnel and the department is getting

two new ambulances, for a total of nine. The first ambulance should arrive in May, with the second in June or July. Numbers are still being crunched to determine where in the county is the best place for those new ambulances to be housed. The department has a total of 214 positions, though not all are filled. When it comes to fire apparatus, the department has three 75-foot platform trucks, which are housed at the headquarters station on Turkey Creek Road, Station 6 in Madras and Station 12 at Ebenezer Church Road. As growth – particularly vertical growth – continues, the department will have to look at going higher, said Chief Deron “Pat” Wilson. “As we replace some of those rigs over time, we’re probably going to be going with the 100 foot platform,” Wilson said. Even if a building on fire or a rescue isn’t quite that high, being able to go 100 feet up in the air gives a better reach, and can give the ability to spray water down onto a fire, instead of trying to spray it up. Platform trucks are great for rescues, both from tall buildings or from ravines. With a platform, instead of a ladder, there’s no need for climbing up or down. “We’ve had to set it up on the inCCFR • 18

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18 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Heroes Among Us

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

PHOTO BY CLAY NEELY

Three years after taking over EMS services for the county, Coweta County Fire Rescue was recently named Emergency Medical Service of the Year by the Georgia Association of Emergency Medical Services. From left are Assistant Chief Mitch Coggin, Division Chief Ron Hamilton, Fire Marshal Blaine Shirley, Assistant Chief Jeff Denney, First Assistant Chief Scott Harmon, Fire Chief Deron “Pat” Wilson, District Chief Bryan Fuller, District Chief Craig Sherrer, District Chief Robby Flanagan, and Deputy Fire Marshal Enrico Dean.

CCFR From page 17

terstate in places where we have car accidents in steep ravines,” said Firefighter J.T. Wilson. “We can get the patient up in a rope basket – it’s been used many times.” Firefighters can even rappel from the platform. The department has 14 pumper trucks, which are referred to as “engine companies.” These are standard fire engines that hook to fire hydrants. They can also pump water from lakes, if need be, and they all carry 750 to 1,000 gallons of water. There are four tankers that carry 3,000 gallons for areas where there isn’t access to water. There are also

backup and reserve units. Currently, the department is in the midst of changing its response protocol, to put more apparatus on the scene. The department is working on a new “safe structural firefighting” policy. Currently, two engines, a platform truck, a battalion chief and the heavy rescue unit respond to a structure fire. The changes will add two additional engines to the mix. “That gives us personnel and additional firefighting capacity,” Wilson said. “If the first unit can handle it, then we’ll cancel those units responding.” The additional units on scene will bring the department close to National Fire Protection Association standards, he said. Over the years, the department

has expanded and upgraded fire stations. The only station that hasn’t received a recent renovation is Station 5 on Smokey Road. Wilson said his goal is to build a new station in the area, but in a different location. “If we can’t replace it, we may look at some short term renovations,” he said. “I would rather wait and let’s get the location right.” The current number of stations should serve the county well for a while, but Wilson said there will probably be a need for a station location study in the next few years. The folks at Coweta Fire Rescue do more than just respond to emergencies. Before Christmas last year, the department installed 1,120 smoke alarms in local homes. The department focused on

homes where folks may be struggling financially and don’t have smoke alarms. But the project was more than that. “It was a big outreach. It was more than just smoke alarms, it was also letting people know we’re here,” Wilson said. His firefighters also do public outreach in other ways, going to community events, setting up the fire engine for kids. Or they may stop and help someone with a flat tire. In 2018, Wilson wants to expand community outreach even more. “What these folks do every day makes me proud to be part of this department and part of this family,” Wilson said. “When the rubber meets the road, it’s pretty darn amazing what you see happening here.”


Heroes Among Us — The Newnan Times-Herald — 19

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

PHOTO BY CLAY NEELY

Coweta County Firefighter Josh Moore battles a house blaze in Sharpsburg.

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20 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Heroes Among Us

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

‘This is what I am supposed to be doing’ Newnan native Jay Jones to continue serving county in new role BY MELANIE RUBERTI melanie@newnan.com If home is where the heart is, then Jay Jones is in the right spot. The Coweta Emergency Management Agency Director was born, raised and started his career in the county. Now Jones can add one more title to his resume. The 53-year-old man was recently named the director of Coweta County’s E-911 center. “I’m excited for the opportunity,” said Jones. “It’s another way for me to provide safety and resources for the community and build up the community in my own little way. I’m humbled that the county thought of me to do it.” Jones will serve in a dual role as the director of both the county’s 911 center and the Emergency Management Agency. Both positions will allow Jones to continue assisting the county he holds close to his heart. It’s the same community that Jones witnessed tremendous growth and change over the past five decades. “I remember they were building the interstate coming through the county

in the 1960’s,” he said. “I remember riding the school bus and seeing construction workers building the overpass. “When I was growing up in county, we did not have a fire department in the county,” Jones added. “The first official fire department call didn’t happen until 1973.” Jones graduated from Newnan High School in 1982 and enrolled in night classes at West Georgia Technical College. He worked at the now-defunct warehouse for Eckerd drug stores. Then decided to apply at Coweta County Fire and Rescue. Jones was hired on as a firefighter in 1987. His love for helping the community soon turned into passion. “My first call with the fire department was to a dumpster fire off Turkey Creek Road. It was just me and a fire truck,” he remembered. “I put out the fire. There were people standing there, and they thanked for me for coming out. I thought, ‘This is what I am supposed to be doing.’ I felt called to do it.” Jones obtained his EMT certification and was promoted up the ladder. He JAY JONES • 21 PHOTO BY MELANIE RUBERTI

Coweta County Emergency Management Director Jay Jones leads a briefing with public safety officials, the National Weather Service and the media in preparation for Tropical Storm Nate in October. Jones was recently named the director of the county E-911 center. He will hold both positions moving forward.


Heroes Among Us — The Newnan Times-Herald — 21

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

JAY JONES From page 20

became a deputy chief of CCFD in 2006. In 2008, Jones was hired as director of the Coweta County Emergency Management Agency. He proceeded to work with all local public safety agencies, city and county departments plus community leaders to keep the area safe during a natural or man-made disasters. Jones’ responsibilities included planning and preparing for potential catastrophes, plus facilitating and coordinating agency responses and training for each scenario, such as a flu pandemic or a tornado. “We can’t stop those things from happening,” Jones said. “But we can develop plans, and train on those plans to make our community safe. We can be more resilient when those things do happen. It’s about saving lives and saving property. “With EMA, I am able to do more things and help more people,” he continued. “It was a way to branch out further … and broaden my responsibilities.” However, more responsibilities also meant more challenges for Jones. Coweta County experienced an explosion in population and commercial growth, beginning in the mid 1980’s. City and county leaders, public works departments and public safety agencies, including CEMA, rushed to keep up with the progress. However, while the landscape of the once-rural county quickly changed, it still felt like home to Jones. “My parents were raised here. I have family and friends here. I met my wife here, and we’re raising our kids here. I’m definitely a hometown

boy,” Jones said. “I’m not a ‘big city’ type of person … I live in a log home, in the west side of the county. It’s simple living. The simpler, the better. “Most of the (local) government leaders are trying to keep the small town feel, but manage the growth,” he added. “I know at some point, that may not feasible … but you can ride through the county and still see some farms and their animals … Coweta still has a small town rural touch to it.” Jones’ commitment to the community goes beyond the workplace. In addition to being a husband and a father to 5-year-old twins, he has volunteered with the Special Olympics for the past 25 years, and became chairman of the local chapter four years ago. Jones also serves on the board of the Western Area Regional Radio System. He is humble about his service to the community. “I don’t think I’m special,” Jones said. “There’s no way I could do anything by myself. I’m just a cog in the wheel. But I want to help people as much as possible.” It’s a goal he will now complete as the head of the county 911 center. Jones will oversee the daily operations, build training programs and ensure the center has the latest, stateof-the-art equipment. In some ways, Jones believes his career has come full circle. “As the 911 director, it brings it all together,” he said. “How can we make things better? How can we take it to the next level? A lot of things are coming down the pike. With SPLOST, we’re going to make renovations at post, expand the center and work on ways to build the agency … but most importantly, keep people in the community safe.”

Georgia Power salutes our men and women who keep Coweta County safe.


22 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Heroes Among Us

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

PHOTOS BY CLAY NEELY

A K-9 hops out of a helicopter to chase down a bad guy during a live demonstration at Mantracker 2018. held annually at the Coweta County Fairgrounds.

Firefighters Nicole Dempsey and Jake Smith share a hug after battling a house fire on 37 Derring Drive, just off Franklin Highway.

Investigator Brandon Thrower gives K-9 Nero a loving pat during a retirement ceremony for his canine.

Chuck Devane and Sgt. Mark Callahan review a map during a simulated school shooting at West Georgia Technical College.


Heroes Among Us — The Newnan Times-Herald — 23

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

PHOTOS BY CLAY NEELY

Officer Juan Castro and Officer Nick White participate in the annual National Night Out. The event is designed to help strengthen the relationship between first-responders and the public in a relaxing atmosphere.

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24 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Heroes Among Us

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

A Formidable force BY MELANIE RUBERTI melanie@newnan.com

Editor’s Note: Melanie Ruberti road along with GSP Cpl. Justin Hogan on Tuesday, Feb. 6 in preparation for this story. Georgia State Patrol Cpl. Justin Hogan sits and waits, like a caged panther, in his brightly colored orange and blue patrol car along Interstate 85 in Coweta County. He is part of a formidable force from GSP post 24 in Newnan. Hogan is one of nine troopers who keep a close eye on the interstates and back roads in Coweta, Fayette and Heard counties. The troopers are called to respond

to accidents and to keep drivers safe by looking out for those who violate traffic and state laws, such as finding drugs in a vehicle during a routine stop. Or stopping someone traveling above the posted speed limit, like the driver Cpl. Hogan pulled over on Wednesday along I-85. “He was going 91 miles-per-hour in a 70 mile-per-hour zone, up the middle lane. That’s too fast,” Hogan stated. Post 24 Commander SFC Mike Adcock hopes to have more troopers on the county’s interstates and roadways this spring, as another class

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graduates from Trooper School. “This is a great department,” he said. “We’re all like family.” The chances of Adcock adding a new face to his team are high, thanks to a recent, substantial increase in trooper’s salaries. “Overall, it has helped tremendously in the recruiting process,” said Adcock. “We’ve seen an increase in numbers (of people) going through our Trooper Schools.” The number of qualified and experienced troopers began dwindling in 2008. Low paying salaries and the retirement rate of seasoned troopers left the Georgia State Patrol hurting

for more law enforcement officers. Low salaries also made it hard for GSP to recruit new candidates. In September 2016, Gov. Nathan Deal signed a budget proposal that raised trooper’s salaries by 20 percent. Those increases took effect in January 2017. The starting salary for a candidate going through GSP Trooper School is now $36,110. In 2016, a rookie made $34,038 while in school, according to the Georgia Department of Public Safety website. A graduate brought home $35,741. On a state level, Georgia State Pa-

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Heroes Among Us — The Newnan Times-Herald — 25

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

FORCE From page 24

trol troopers rated last in the nation for entry level salaries, officials said. Now, upon graduation, new troopers get a salary bump to $46,422, Adcock said. Within eight years, troopers with no formal promotion or rank can make $61,825, Adcock added. The jump in salary made the Georgia State Patrol more competitive with other state law enforcement agencies when it comes to recruiting new members. The additional troopers would be a welcome sight on Georgia’s interstates and roadways, said Adcock. Within Post 24’s coverage zone, more troopers might make the most positive impact in Coweta County. According to Adcock, the majority of the car accidents they cover happen in Coweta County. The 2017 incident reports from Post 24- Newnan showed: • 1,909 Accidents • 109 DUI • 20 Fatalities Troopers also handed out 4,293 citations, said Adcock. “We know distracted driving is the result of some of the crashes. Following too close in a congested area is another contributing factor or failing to yield,” Adcock explained. “Our enforcement is to change driving behaviors and make the roads safe - that’s our ultimate goal.” While the Georgia State Patrol as a whole is seeing more growth within its ranks, it got off to a slow start. “People still need to go through the application process. Then if they

get into Trooper School, that’s another 10-12 month process. So this hasn’t been an ‘instant fix,’” Adcock explained. “But we’re on the uptick. We’d like to see an increase of six more troopers here (at Post 24).” According to the Georgia Department of Public Safety website, the Georgia State Patrol will hold three Trooper Schools in 2018. The next one will begin June 24. Adcock held two GSP recruiting events in Coweta County last year. He said as an added incentive, the Georgia State Patrol allowed new troopers to choose the post where they wanted to serve. It was a recruitment tool that helped post commanders “recruit local people who would stay local,” said Adcock. But that incentive will end in June. After that, new recruits coming out of Trooper School will be placed wherever they are most needed within Georgia. However, new recruits have plenty of opportunities to move up the ranks and into other career paths within the Georgia State Patrol, said Adcock. Those divisions include: the Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team (SCRT), SWAT unit, dive team, motorcycle and aviation units and the Executive Security detail, whom protect the governor and state justices. “We are people who are interested in serving the public,” Adcock said. “This is a great organization to be a part of. We’re family.” For more information about the Georgia State Patrol or to download an application for Trooper School, visit dps.georgia.gov.

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26 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Heroes Among Us

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

PHOTO BY MELANIE RUBERTI

Georgia State Patrol Cpl. Justin Hogan waits to receive a license and registration from a driver he pulled over along the Newnan Crossing Bypass. The trooper is part of GSP Post 24 out of Newnan.


Heroes Among Us — The Newnan Times-Herald — 27

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

PHOTO BY MELANIE RUBERTI

Georgia State Patrol Cpl. Justin Hogan finishes a conversation with a driver he pulled over along the Newnan Crossing Bypass. Hogan caught three speeders within a two-hour time frame, including a driver traveling 91 miles-per-hour in the southbound lanes of Interstate 85.

Thank You First Responders No words seem adequate to express our admiration and gratitude for the brave men and women who run towards danger to selflessly save others. www.cityofnewnan.org


28 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Heroes Among Us

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

Coweta 911: A passion for helping

SUBMITTED PHOTO

Members from the A-2 shift are, from left, Jacob Eason, Oscar Ystenes, Patricia Robertson, Tina Parker, Tiffany Abernathy, Kimberly Sexton, Carla Fife, and Denise Madrey.


Heroes Among Us — The Newnan Times-Herald — 29

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018 BY CLAY NEELY

clay@newnan.com

Each day, dispatchers must interact with total strangers who are having possibly the worst day of their life. "It takes a special person to do this job,” said 911 Assistant Director Arlene Whisenhunt. “You have to possess a driving need to want to help people.” • Coweta 911 has 53 employees. • A minimum of seven dispatchers work each shift to cover the seven primary agencies in the county. • The center handles roughly 300 calls a day. In 2017, they received a total of 111,152 calls. • All dispatchers must have Emergency Medical Dispatcher certification and be CPR-certified through the American Red Cross or an equivalent association. The employees of 911 come from different backgrounds and lead very different lives. However, they’re all connected through a passion for helping people. Longtime 911 employee and senior dispatcher Tiffany Abernathy half-jokingly calls her co-workers the “redheaded stepchildren of public safety.” “I think we’re getting more recognition lately, but folks are always so quick to praise those who arrive on the scene first," she said. "Well, who do you think got them there?” Like their co-workers on the night shift who waited for news on the missing child, the issue of getting closure is something most employees say is the hardest aspect of their job. Coweta’s 911 dispatch center is dimly lit, but not too dark. Dispatchers work 12-hour shifts, on two days and off two days, much like the sheriff ’s office. The room is

divided by two large cubicles where four to five dispatchers work at a time. For a room where panic is the norm, it’s a relatively quiet environment. The scenarios of misfortune that come across the phone lines are seemingly endless. From situations involving infants to the elderly, 911 dispatchers must maintain their cool in circumstances that are anything but. Most agree that calls involving children are some of the hardest emotionally. Victoria Patterson recalled the afternoon where a mother called, frantic that her baby swallowed a coin and was choking. “The mother was hysterical and was unable to focus,” she remembered. “The 12-year-old brother got on the phone and we told him how to do a finger swipe, which cleared the coin. He told me, ‘You saved my brother,’ and I had tears in my eyes. He was able to do what an adult couldn’t.” When a Coweta deputy was attacked during a routine traffic stop, operator Marie Imhoff waited for what she believed were the longest three minutes of her life. “You hear, ‘Shots fired. Shots fired,’ and then dead air,” she recalled. “You never want to hear that. Is he hit? When he finally jumped back on the radio, we all exhaled.” Dispatchers in Georgia must complete a 40-hour training program in their first six months of employment in order to earn their certification as a communications officer through the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council. After that, new employees remain on probation for a year, and continuing education is an annual require-

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30 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Heroes Among Us

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

PHOTO BY CLAY NEELY

Members from the A1 and B1 shifts are, from left, Dustin Arrington, Kayla Markward, Monica Equere, Cindy Eady, Ashley Brown, Kymer Walker, Tracey Jakobsen, Nickota Wheat, Sharwynne Rhein, Dustin Buckner, Shelly Tenney, Tim Eason, Samantha Harris, Shannon Gurlides, and Brooke Rampy.

COWETA 911 From page 29 ment. Even then, the job is clearly not for everyone. “After doing this for so many years, you can see right away if a person is cut

out for this,” Abernathy said. “It definitely requires a certain skill set.” Despite the urgent and often morbid outcomes of many calls, humor does find its way into the call center. Patterson recalled a woman who was stranded on U.S. Highway 29 and used her phone to call for assistance while

sitting on a parked train. “All of the sudden, the train took off, and she’s sitting on the coupler in-between the cars,” Patterson recalled. “By the time we were able to contact CSX, she was already in Palmetto." With the heavy nature of the job, working together as a group provides

an immediate support network among co-workers. “When something goes wrong, it’s human nature to second-guess yourself,” Imhoff said. “But it’s easy to talk about it here because we all understand. Doing this job without a group dynamic would be really difficult.”


Heroes Among Us — The Newnan Times-Herald — 31

PUBLIC SAFETY 2018

Thank you... To all our public safety personnel. I am honored to join others in saluting and thanking our local First-Responders who keep our county safe and strong.

SUBMITTED PHOTO

Members from the B2 shift are, from left, Felicia Bridgette, Emir Flores, Clarissa Hutcheson, Michaela Phillips, Jennifer Johnson, Cynthia Glover, Emily Bates, Lauren Coggin, and Victoria Blackson.

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