2021 Hometown Heroes

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A SPECIAL PUBLICATION BY THE NEWNAN TIMES-HERALD After 47 years, Newnan chief, Meadows, to retire ......page 3

EMA/911 is ground zero for emergencies large and small ......page 6

Coweta firefighters recognized for teamwork ......page 9

Hometown

HEROES

2020/2021

First responders look back on a year of challenges ......page 16

Community honors fallen CCSO investigator ......page 23


2 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Hometown Heroes

PUBLIC SAFETY 2021

Our community is so fortunate to have the outstanding leadership that we enjoy in all areas of public safety.

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e already knew we had the best Public Safety folks in the countr y, but never was it proven more than on the horrible early morning of March 26th when the world collapsed around us here in Newnan and Coweta County. For many years, my passion has been to show these first responders how greatly we appreciate their risking their lives and going way beyond the call of duty. God has blessed us with men and women who, even though their families were in danger, sacrificed to take care of the citizens who were suffering with such loss as never seen here before. Going house to house, risking their own lives, they made sure everyone was safe. Many of those first responders lost their homes or had them so heavily damaged that it is incomprehensible, but they came to work. And work they did—many working 21 or more hours at a time. Our community is so fortunate to have the outstanding leadership that we enjoy in all areas of public safety. And, we can never thank the men and women who serve us— there is no way. I am so grateful to every one of them and hope they know how very much they are loved and appreciated. How wonderful that those individuals and businesses have come together to show their gratitude. Prayers, along with gratitude shown in every way, will sustain these special people who are willing to do any and every thing to keep us safe. God bless them all. -Norma Haynes


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Greener Meadows After 47 years, Newnan chief to retire

BY REBECCA LEFTWICH becky@newnan.com

Chief Douglas L. “Buster” Meadows says police work is all he ever wanted to do. When retires in June, he will have spent nearly five decades working his way up through the ranks from an 18-year-old civilian communications officer to chief of the Newnan Police Department. “Who would have ever thought that a boy from the Sargent mill village would be in charge of a $9 million budget someday?” Meadows said. Meadows was newly graduated in 1973 – among the 35 or so members of Western High School’s last graduating class, whose commencement ceremonies took place during a thunderstorm – when he took a job as a radio operator at NPD. Public service runs in his blood. Meadows’ father Lamar, a Navy veteran, worked for the Georgia State Patrol. His brother David is a retired U.S. Navy captain, and their late brother Wesley had a long and decorated career in firefighting. Buster was the brother who always wanted to be the policeman when the three played together as children. “Police work is just what always interested me,” he said. These days, officers go through a 12-week certification course before they hit the streets. When Meadows became a patrol officer in 1975, officers were allowed to police for a year before they had to be certified. He completed the then-three weeks of required training and realized his childhood dream without much pomp and circumstance.

“I went right back to the car and went back to patrolling,” Meadows said. “I had about three days’ worth of training with another officer before I was turned loose on my own.”

A born storyteller He’s imposingly large but folksy and jovial, and Meadows is a born storyteller. With 47 years of police work behind him, he has no shortage of material. Pranking fellow officers by stealing keys and hiding cars was a way to keep each other on their toes back then, as young officers had to work hard to stay sharp and keep boredom at bay. Meadows recalled one night when he and his partner were tasked with catching the man who’d been sleeping in a mausoleum in Oak Lawn Cemetery. After procuring some tin cans and a sheet from the jail, the pair waited for the man to get settled in for the night. “We started waving the sheet and hitting the tin cans and the guy comes out of the mausoleum, out of the cemetery, across Jackson Street and just keeps going,” Meadows said. “We thought it was really funny.” They cleared the man’s blankets and other items from the mausoleum, then called their lieutenant. “We told him the subject was gone, and his next question was, ‘Who was it?’” Meadows said. “We said, ‘Uh … we forgot to ask.’” The partners were summoned to the NPD, where they had to explain to the lieutenant how they rousted the cemetery squatter.

MEADOWS • 4

PHOTO BY REBECCA LEFTWICH

Chief Douglas “Buster” Meadows at his desk at the Newnan Police Department.

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4 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Hometown Heroes

MEADOWS FROM PAGE 3 The lieutenant sent them to the chief, who – fortunately – had a sense of humor. “The chief just kind of snickered a little,” Meadows said. While his early shenanigans make for great stories, Meadows said his favorite moments have been spent working with kids – playing Santa, providing for needy families, and visits to schools and groups to talk to kids about police work, the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and personal safety.

Deep roots in Coweta Meadows’ roots r un deep in Coweta County, and sometimes memories pop up in unexpected

PUBLIC SAFETY 2021

places – even in his own department. Like that one time when Lt. Denver Atwood walked into his office with an old photo of Meadows in a Santa Claus suit, listening to a little boy’s Christmas wishes. “He says, ‘Do you know who this is?’” Meadows recalled. “I said, ‘That’s me in the Santa suit, and I think that’s the cabin down in Senoia.’ He says, ‘Who’s that on your lap?’ and I said I didn’t know. He said, ‘That’s me!’ “I told him to get out of my office,” Meadows said with a chuckle. He serves as chairman of deacons at Sargent Baptist Church, and Meadows and his wife Mary Lynn have been married for 42 years. “Mary Lynn has raised me quite well,” he said. They have one daughter, April, who lives in California with her husband and young daughter, and Meadows proudly displays his granddaughter’s photos in his sunny office. Meadows’ love for not only his own family but for all of Coweta’s young

people is apparent in his work. One accomplishment he says he’s particularly proud of is helping create NPD’s community outreach department, which among other programs has implemented the successful Guitars, Not Guns initiative. But children have been a source of heartbreak during the chief’s long career, too. “The death of a child, whether accidental or natural, affects you more than anything,” Meadows said. “With grownups it’s bad, but I can’t remember most of those calls. As far as child deaths, I can just about tell you details of all of them.”

Steady rise through the ranks His rise through the ranks has been steady. In 1978, Meadows became a desk sergeant. Ten years later, he was promoted to patrol ser-

MEADOWS • 5

COURTESY OF CITY OF NEWNAN

Buster Meadows has some fun with a toy police bike during a shopping trip for needy children.

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Hometown Heroes — The Newnan Times-Herald — 5

PHOTOS COURTESY CITY OF NEWNAN

He started out as a civilian radio operator, and Buster Meadows eventually worked his way up through the ranks to chief.

Chief Buster Meadows is pictured among members of the NPD Honor Guard.

NPD Chief Buster Meadows presents flowers to Norma Haynes of the Newnan Coweta Public Safety Foundation.

Buster Meadows mans the grills at a community barbecue.

Buster Meadows works a robbery during his street days.

MEADOWS FROM PAGE 4 geant, then patrol lieutenant, where he served until 1995. The patrol years predictably spawned some colorful stories, including a few wild chases. All of his chases ended with NPD catching the suspects, Meadows said, but his last one – sometime in the early 80s – was a doozy. “One of our officers got into a chase on the south end of town and went all the way to LaGrange the back way, down Corinth Road and Smokey Road and that area,” Meadows said. “Everything was going good until we got to the city limits of LaGrange.” There, a Troup County sheriff ’s deputy had set up in one lane of traffic to try and stop the suspects, who had thrown guns and drugs out of their vehicle back in Newnan. “Instead of going around him, they took off his front end,” Meadows said. Seven or eight different agencies were involved in the incident, but in the end it was NPD that made the stop by putting the suspect vehicle in the ditch near a backroads church. The chase covered many miles but only took 15-20 minutes because of the high rates of speed, and Newnan Police lost two of their standard-issue LTDs – one that took the suspect off the road and another whose transmission went out. Meadows said the only unexpected twist that night was the remarkable absence of any deer on the road. “It must have been all those flashing lights and sirens,” he said. “They saw us coming and said, ‘Hide! It’s the police!” He may have started his career with a

bare minimum, but Meadows has since logged 2,700 hours of law enforcement training. He is a certified instructor for general courses, radar/lidar and defensive tactics. Meadows also is a member of the Peace Officers Associations of Georgia, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Association of Professional Communications Officers, and he serves as a mentor for new police chiefs and is the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police representative for the Georgia State TRIAD. At the Newnan Police Department, he has been chief since January of 2002, when he took over in an interim capacity after serving as administrative lieutenant for four years and then being named the department’s first and only administrative captain. His role became permanent in 2003.

‘It is the right time’ As he prepares to transition into retirement, Meadows said his feelings are difficult to describe. Speaking about leaving behind his coworkers, both at the NPD and throughout the city, leaves Meadows misty-eyed. Still, he said he has no plans to leave the county where he’s spent his entire life and career – unless he manages to fit some post-retirement traveling into his woodworking, fishing, gardening and home project schedule. “My wife and I prayed about it, talked about it and thought about it,” he said. “I talked with my older brother some and he finally told me one day, “Buck, I cannot tell you when you’ll be ready to retire. You’ll just know it’s the right time.’ “He was right,” Meadows added. “Things just seemed to start falling into place, and I know it is the right time.”


6 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Hometown Heroes

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EMA/911 is ground zero for emergencies large and small

Coweta EMA/911 Director Michael Terrell

BY SARAH FAY CAMPBELL sarah@newnan.com

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hen disasters approach, t he C owet a C ou nt y Emergency M a n a ge ment Agency springs into action, to help coordinate response with various local and state agencies. "Our job is to provide the location, the communication and the abilities for everybody else to get together. We try to coordinate the effort," said Coweta EMA/911 Director Michael Terrell. "We don't tell anybody else how to do anything, we all work together as a really well coordinated team," he said. And every day – 24/7/365 – the Coweta 911 center is ready to answer emergency calls and dispatch fire, police and ambulances. Coweta EMA/911 had been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year when a c at a s t r oph ic t or n a do t or e through Coweta early the morning of March 26. "This is a unique situation to have an emergency inside of a pandemic. No one has really done this before," Terrell said. "We're basically building the airplane as we're flying it right now." The evening of March 25, Terrell was monitoring the storm from home as it moved across Alabama. As he watched it move, he started contacting local public safety officials to let them know it could be significant. As the storm crossed the state

line, people started heading to the Coweta Emergency Operations Center, at the 911 center. "We watched the radar from the EOC as it hit dow ntow n Newnan," Terrell said. As the storm neared the center, everyone took shelter for about 10 minutes, then 911 communications officers were back to work. The storm passed very close to the 911 center, which is located off International Park Boulevard in the Creekside Industrial Park. Within 30 minutes after the storm passed through, more public safety officials started showing up. Georgia Emergency Management Director Chris Stallings was there by 2 a.m. "By 2 a.m., this place was full," said Coweta Commun ic at ion s M a n a ger C at hy Wickey. In the dark, no one could know the full extent of the damage, but they did know it was going to be major. While the stor m str uck 10 counties, Coweta bore the brunt of the damage. Because the disaster was so focused in Coweta, "the response available to us has been higher," Terrell said. "If there were 10 counties with the same amount of destruction we have, we would not have half of the resources,” he said. "The

amount of resources allocated to our county by the state has put us days ahead." Since the day of the storm, the EOC has been busy, with state and local partners moving in and out, and regular meetings. The state sent an incident command team for the first two days to help with the paperwork, Terrell said. There is a group of volunteers who are staffing the tornado relief hotline. Those needing help and those wanting to help can call the hotline. Volunteers are then matched with those in need.

Last year, Coweta completed a major upgrade of the 911 center, including a new, larger area for 911 operators and a new EOC, with large screens, amphitheater style seating and break out rooms. The upgrades have been a significant benefit during the disaster response. The breakout rooms and extra space were needed. "During the first 48 hours, we probably had 300 people come in from multiple

EMA/911 • 7


EMA/911

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Hometown Heroes — The Newnan Times-Herald — 7

FROM PAGE 6 state agencies and other places. At any given time there could have been 40 people or more," he said. "The EOC worked really well." The extra space also came in handy in the 911 center – especially because they had to switch from computers to paper for the first few days. Battalion chiefs from the Coweta and Newnan fire departments worked in the 911 call center to organize the paper tickets. "Everything we were having to do was manual. It would have been much more difficult before the remodel," Terrell said. The 911 Center usually utilizes computer aided dispatch. The CAD system has mapping capabilities and the ability for dispatchers to send their notes directly to the responding unit. But the CA D systems depend on remote ser vers, and the connection between them went down. "For about four days, we had to do everything by paper," Terrell said. The primary radio link went down as well. There's a redundant backup system that automatically switches over, and public safety officials in the field likely didn't even notice the switch, Terrell said. While everything was on paper, battalion chiefs from the city and county helped out with organizing tickets. "Because everything we were having to do was manual, it would have been much more difficult before the remodel," Terrell said. "There have been times we wished we had more space." The EM A helps out w ith week ly COV ID-19 vaccine administration, known as a “point of distribution,” but for the past few weeks, they've been a bit busy. The Henry County EMA came out and essentially ran one POD for Coweta, and Cobb County came out last week. On the 911 side, Deputy Director Arlene Whisenhunt is "an awesome partner," said Terrell. While Terrell is new to the position, Whisenhunt has been at the 911 center for many years. Many others in the 911 center have extensive experience. "I'm very fortunate that I have the staff that I have," Terrell said.

PHOTOS BY SARAH CAMPBELL

The Coweta 911 center’s communications officers are on the phones 24/7/365 responding to 911 calls and dispatching public safety officials to respond to those calls. The 911 center was remodeled last year to create significantly more space.

Volunteers have been staffing the tornado relief line call center at Coweta 911.


8 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Hometown Heroes

PUBLIC SAFETY 2021

Battalion Chief Jeffery Patterson recently retired after 31 years at the Newnan Fire Department. Patterson was recognized for his selfless service, leadership and dedication to the department by Chief Stephen Brown among others during the ceremony.

Newly promoted officers at the NFD. From left are Captain Thomas Ramey, Battalion Chief John Byrom, Battalion Chief Damon Rosser, and Captain Josh Whitley. All have served the City of Newnan for many years and look forward to continuing to do so in their new leadership roles.

Newnan Fire Department promotes two new Lieutenants. From left are Lt. Ben Robinson and Lt. Daniell Albertson

Captain Travis Hall and Chief Stephen Brown present plaques of appreciation to Denise Burks commemorating her retirement from the Newnan Fire Department.

NEWNAN FIRE DEPARTMENT


Hometown Heroes — The Newnan Times-Herald — 9

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Coweta firefighters recognized for teamwork BY CLAY NEELY

clay@newnan.com

M

embers of Coweta County Fire Rescue were recognized for their teamwork in an awards presentation. The Ronnie Thames Foundation recognized approximately 17 firefighters for outstanding teamwork during an extensive rescue operation in July 2020. The foundation recognizes firefighters who make a difference in the metro Atlanta communities through their commitment, dedication and community spirit, according to Foundation President Pam Bozek. Fire departments or communities nominate a firefighter (or team or department) in one of four categories: leadership, heroism, education/community and teamwork.

PHOTO BY CHRIS MARTIN

Shots from rescue

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10 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Hometown Heroes

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PHOTOS BY CHRIS MARTIN

FIREFIGHTERS FROM PAGE 9 The rescue occurred behind the NGC Theatre in Sharpsburg, where a 2018 Infiniti Q50 drove through a fence on the property, went down a 100-foot embankment, and landed in the water. Rescue personnel worked to scale the steep embankment and extricate the two victims from the car, which was surrounded by water. The rescue process was an in-depth operation – spanning over 2 ½ hours – and personnel combated extreme challenges including 100-degree heat, transporting rescue equipment down the embankment and removing the victims from the car, which sat in around 4 to 6 feet of water. Personnel worked hand in hand-toremove the occupants, provide medical treatment, patient packaging and stabilization as both occupants were secured into stokes baskets and hauled out of the ravine using the rope system that was in place.

Both occupants were noted as having multiple system trauma and were both flown to an Atlanta trauma center utilizing two air ambulances that were requested and stood by on the scene while rescue efforts were underway. There were approximately 98 nominees and 21 winners in the teamwork category for 2020, 17 of which came from Coweta. Last Thursday, a small awards presentation was held in the bays of Coweta County Fire Rescue Station 1. Breakfast was provided by Chick-fil-A and each member was presented with an award, challenge coin and hat. The award presentations are typically held annually at the Georgia Aquarium ballroom, with nearly 1,000 in attendance for the formal affair. It’s also the largest awards ceremony for firefighters in the Southeast, according to J.C. Barb who represents the Foundation. Winners are awarded a three-day trip to New York City to break bread with FDNY and visit the 9/11 museum. “It’s an inspiring moment to bring departments together in New York with FDNY,” Barb said. “Due to COVID19 concerns, the trip was not made this

ye a r. N ex t year will be a big group since we’ll also have the 2019 winners to take as well.” Former Coweta County Fire Chief Pat Wilson said he was tremendously proud of the crew and looks forward to the journey to New York City. "When they show the video of going to New York City, it's powerful to see the excitement and see the folks that made the trip,” Wilson said. “We’re excited to see our folks go. What an amazing deal for those who have never gone but now have the opportunity." The Ronnie Thames Foundation is a nonprofit organization that was established in 2012 with a mission to help children and their families when their lives have been forever changed by fire. The foundation joined Atlanta City Councilman Julian Bond’s Save-ALife-Blitz community program in 2015 testing and installing smoke alarms through Atlanta and distributing hand-

held personal fire suppression sessions and safety literature. Coweta personnel recognized for the award include Battalion Chief Don Pickford, Battalion Chief Adam Westbrook, Battalion Chief Mark Griffin, Battalion Chief Josh Thomas, Firefighter Ronnie Smith, Lt. Johnnie Wiggins, Firefighter Jordan Limbaugh, Lt. Jason Gazaway, Firefighter Paramedic Daniel Kelly, Firefighter Paramedic Matthew Brown, Firefighter Dylan Schumacher, Firefighter Chris Lowe, Firefighter David Millirons, Firefighter Matt Ransone, Firefighter Damian Sorrells, Paramedic Andrew Benefield and Firefighter David Whatley.


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Hometown Heroes — The Newnan Times-Herald — 11

PHOTO BY LAUREL HUSTER

Pictured from left are, Captain Chuck Smith with the Coweta County Sheriff's Office, Kurt Sills of Blue Alpha, Sheriff Lenn Wood, Jesse Frei of Blue Alpha and Major Warren Campbell with CCSO.

Local business pays deductibles for first responders affected by tornado BY LAUREL HUSTER laurel@newnan.com

Blue Alpha, a local company that makes tactical belts, recently paid the insurance deductibles for first responders who were affected by the tornado. Kurt Sills started Blue Alpha with Jesse Frei, and said they received a list from the county of local firefighters, law enforcement members and E-911 employees who had damaged homes from the March 26 tornado. He said there were 10 to 15 people whose homes were damaged in some way, and some that were destroyed completely. “They’ve got enough going on and enough to manage, and we wanted to remove the financial burden from them,” Sills said. He said many would have had to pay the deductible for their home and one or more vehicles that were damaged all at the same time. Blue Alpha paid $20,000 to $25,000 total in deductibles. “That was one way that we could help them and help with the cleanup process,” Sills said. “They tend to a higher level of risk than a lot of people. They’re public servants.” Sills said Frei and him both live here, and they want to take care of their community any way that they can. “Law enforcement and first responders are close to us,” Sills said. “We think it’s such an important service for the community. In these emergency scenarios, they prove their worth.” Sills said a lot of first responders whose homes were damaged by the storm made sure their families were safe, and then tried to go into work to help others.

“They’re the type of people who really want to help others,” Sills said. “It felt right for us to give back to them, and take some of that stress away. They always help us and we wanted to help them.” Sills said they gave the money directly to the people who needed it. He said they met with each of them, handed them a check, gave them a hug, and listened to their stories. “They were concerned they were the only ones getting help, and wanted to make sure other people got help,” Sills said. “They were relieved to find out we were doing it for everyone.” He said everyone was very appreciative, and they got some of the tightest hugs they’ve ever gotten. “I was overwhelmed by the generosity displayed by Jesse and Kurt from Blue Alpha Gear,” said Coweta County Sheriff Lenn Wood. “From the first hour of the disaster they began serving our community by clearing and cleaning roadways and yards of affected friends and community members, but they didn’t stop there.” “They looked forward to the future of our first responders who were tirelessly serving beside them every day but were also affected by the tornado. In Blue Alpha style, they paid every deductible for all of our first responders! It brought me and many of the recipients of the checks to tears of joy and appreciation! We are thankful that Blue Alpha is an active member of our community and we look forward to our future partnerships with them,” Wood added.

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12 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Hometown Heroes

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We Thank All Who Work Daily to Serve Our Community.

2021

Sorrells named VFW Firefighter of the Year PHOTO BY LAUREL HUSTER

Newnan Firefighter Damien D. Sorrells was honored as the VFW’s Firefighter of the Year. Sorrells is the winner of three Life Saver Awards, 2 Silent HERO Awards and a Structure Fire Save, and is the recipient of the Battalion Chief Award of Excellence. A certified firefighter instructor, fire officer and HAZMAT specialist, Sorrells is also currently enrolled in an EMT certification course. From left are Chief Stephen Brown, John Skinner, Damien Sorrells, Billy Alford and Jay Maxwell.

Tha nk you... 2020

Taylor recognized as Fireman of the Year PHOTO COURTESY JANET ALFORD

Newnan Firefighter Chase Taylor was recently honored as the VFW Post 2667 Fireman of the Year. The award is in special recognition and highest praise for alertness, personal courage and other efficient guardianship of life and property. Taylor was nominated by Newnan Battalion Chief for his willingness to go above and beyond in daily duties including checking the status of every AED battery in the department, helping found the SWAT Medic program and working to pass all the requirements to become a SWAT Medic. From left are VFW Post 2667 Senior Vice Commander John Skinner, Taylor and Billy Alford.

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.

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14 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Hometown Heroes

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To learn more about CTCA Atlanta, call 770.400.6677 or visit cancercenter.com/Atlanta.

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16 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Hometown Heroes

PUBLIC SAFETY 2021

First responders look back on a year of

In a roundtable discussion hosted by the Newnan Rotary Club, Sheriff Lenn Wood describes how the year changed his office and the boost they receive from a supportive public.

In a year filled with challenges, recruiting was surprisingly not an issue, according to Coweta County 911 and EMA Director Michael Terrell.

Newnan Police Chief Buster Meadows said acquiring PPE and keeping officers in commission was a challenge.

Newnan Fire Chief Stephen Brown said the greatest challenge, like most agencies, was keeping both the public and their team safe. PHOTOS BY CLAY NEELY

challenges BY CLAY NEELY

clay@newnan.com

O

ne year after COVID-19 arrived in Coweta County, local leaders reflected on how they handled the challenges posed by the pandemic. In a roundtable discussion hosted by the Newnan Rotary Club, heads of public safety discussed how the year changed their agencies and the boost they received from a supportive public. Newnan Fire Chief Stephen Brown said the greatest challenge, like most agencies, was keeping both the public and their team safe. Wanting to get ahead of the panic, Brown and City Manager Cleatus Phillips sat down weeks before COVID-19 forced the community to shut down. Working together, a plan was formed to keep shifts from interacting with each other in an effort to keep personnel safe and avoid prolonged absences from quarantining. “We stayed in touch with EMA and our city manager to keep plans up to date,” he said. “PPE was scarce, but the public stepped up to provide for us. We have what we need now, but support and prayers are always appreciated.” In the earliest parts of the pandemic, both fire and police said their call volumes dropped, citing the public's apprehension about going to a hospital. Sheriff Lenn Wood said keeping his employees calm, despite a barrage of scare tactics from the national media, was a crucial step in maintaining a good working environment at the sheriff’s office. “We got our information from the DPH and watched the stats from the CDC,” Wood said. Like other local agencies, PPE

became scarce, but local businesses that were shut down brought supplies to the sheriff’s office, including gloves, masks and hand sanitizer. Keeping the jail COVID-free was also a major undertaking, but Wood said only two inmates tested positive thanks to protocols including isolating incoming inmates, taking temperatures and testing. However, not seeing family was one of the hardest obstacles for many, especially during the holidays. “You have to quarantine to avoid being around the elderly or high risk,” Wood said. “That was the hardest thing to deal with. We’ve had counselors talk to our officers who were dealing with those kinds of issues and worked through it.” Like Wood, Newnan Police Chief Buster Meadows said acquiring PPE and keeping officers in commission was a task. “In the past, officers might run full steam ahead into a situation, but we were forced to slow up and evaluate a situation,” Meadows said. “Be safe, be quick and then respond. It’s caused us to be more cautious going forward." The community has backed us well. They were always there and we ate well. Coweta County EMA and 911 Director Michael Terrell also confirmed the impact of strong community support. "On the 911 side, our biggest challenge was keeping staffing going,” he said. "At 911, you can’t send people home to work. They have to work in that room, so we enforced temperature

CHALLENGES • 17


PUBLIC SAFETY 2021

Hometown Heroes — The Newnan Times-Herald — 17

Public safety beating burnout ‘We all have someone we can lean on’ PHOTO BY CLAY NEELY

Standing outside for 12-14 hours in one day can be exhausting. But placing more emphasis on helping people other than themselves is why first responders Meadows and LaChance are not feeling burnt out, but more motivated.

BY KATE NORUM

P

eople don’t often think about first responders and everything they go through on a daily basis. Factor in a global pandemic, and now a disastrous tornado has made things even more difficult. Despite always being ready for the city of Newnan and for themselves, day in and day out, burnout and fatigue are some aspects of the job that are rarely discussed. Within the Newnan fire department, police department and sheriff’s office, there has been such a distinct pattern; they all credit this city for encouraging them. “The citizens have always taken good care of us. They pulled together, and

still pulled together and which makes it a lot easier when you know you have people backing you,” said Newnan Police Chief Douglas “Buster” Meadows. “The officers are out there working their hearts out, they see the devastation people are going through, and by the grace of God it could be them going through it, too.” The Coweta County Fairgrounds has been an important area in Newnan for relief efforts. Agencies from all over the metro-Atlanta area are out there supporting Newnan with donations for people displaced by the recent tornado on March

BURNOUT• 19

CHALLENGES FROM PAGE 16 checks, masks, and limiting visitors.” EMA also helped coordinate distributing PPE, setting up tents at hospitals and nursing homes and helping establish vaccine pods for the DPH. “We’re trying to be where we can help the most,” Terrell said. “We’re not first responders in the field, but we take the calls so we’re the hub of the wheel. They’re where the rubber meets the road.” Terrell also urged residents to sign up for Coweta Alerts by Texting “cowetaalerts" to 67283.

In a year filled with challenges, recruiting was surprisingly not an issue, Terrell said. “Our county has raised our pay to ensure we’re competitive,” Terrell said. “People want to help.” Wood also said his department is closer to being fully staffed than ever. “The ‘defunding the police’ movement really helped us since we’re supported by our community,” he said. “We’ve recruited new officers from Atlanta and Peachtree City. They see how much better off we are in Coweta County than other places.” Meadows said Coweta’s reputation as a strong community has been a solid recruiting tool for first responders. “It’s amazing to see how well-recognized we are,” he said.


18 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Hometown Heroes

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Helping the helpers

Newnan firefighter thankful for community support BY JOE ADGIE

news@newnan.com

P

erhaps the enduring legacy that will come from the EF4 tornado in Newnan will be the community spirit of Newnan residents rallying around each other and helping out when able. Even those that are usually called to serve have needed help of their own. For instance, Jason Scott of the Newnan Fire Department was on duty when the tornado rolled into town, and unfortunately for him and his family, right toward his property, where his wife, children and dog were. “I’d say about 11:50, we were woken up here at the station, and we were told the tornado was real, it was coming,” Scott said. “It wasn’t just an alarm. And within minutes of being told that, calls over the radio, the 911 center, just started going crazy. People stuck here, people stuck in their cars, cars overturned — it was just nonstop calls.” Scott said he called his wife, and after several failed attempts to reach her, she called saying their house had been destroyed in the tornado. He informed his chief that his home had been hit, and was told to go be with his family. “I drove out, and the entire (driveway) was covered with trees,” Scott said. “I just see a little cell phone light coming down the driveway and over trees. It’s my wife carrying my baby and she even led our dog without a leash. So I put them in the car and took them to Sharpsburg to my aunt’s. We both said, ‘The family’s safe, go back to work to see what you can do to help.’” Scott said in the aftermath of the tornado, everyone came out to help each other – from the fire departments of both Newnan and Coweta County, the police department, utility companies and even residents that had the means to do so. “Anybody that had a chainsaw and a pickup truck in all of Newnan seemed to be out there trying to clear ways so we could go out and help people,” Scott said. “It was 100 percent all of the city from the

PHOTO BY JOE ADGIE

Firefighter Jason Scott of the Newnan Fire Department is thankful for the support he has received from the Newnan community in the aftermath of last week’s tornado.

bottom to the top. Every single person was out there working together, and still are. Still, every person in the community that had any way of helping is helping.” On top of that, the community rallied around Scott and his family to help him out. “Every single person reached out and asked, ‘What can we do to help you out?’” Scott said. “I said, ‘I don’t know, it might be four or five months before I can get down my driveway, there’s so many trees.’” The afternoon after the tornado, Scott went back to Sharpsburg to pick up his wife. When they went back to their property, they saw neighbors he had never met, as well as Brent Scarborough and his construction company, clearing the way for him to get to his house. “It was already 90 percent cleared by

the time we pulled up,” Scott said. “I thought it was someone else’s driveway.” The work from people that Scott had never met before allowed him and his family to get what they needed out of their house, including his wife’s car and clothing. “I told everyone, we have the necessities, there’s so many people in Newnan that don’t have that. Help those people,” he said. Scott said he and his family are fortunate compared to many others, but expressed some disappointment in the fact that while his home was insured, his insurance company would not handle any of the trees on his property that did not touch his house. That disappointment centered around his wife seeing those downed trees, and having to relive the tornado by seeing the

trees on the ground every single day. “We lived in the center of five acres, surrounded by woods. You wouldn’t even know your home was there. And now the trees are on the ground,” Scott said. “All we have is a view of devastation that we have to see and my wife has to relive every day. They will not touch a single tree that is not laying on the house, and I’ve got hundreds of trees that are laying on the ground in every direction. And every direction you look, there’s homes that we didn’t know existed. That’s how much it’s cleared out.” Scott said he’s received phone calls from people volunteering to help cut trees, but he said he doesn’t know how they’d be hauled off. “We know we’ll never get the view again, but we just hope the view for the rest of our lives isn’t the devastation.”


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Heroes Among Us — The Newnan Times-Herald — 19

BURNOUT FROM PAGE 17

Edwards named VFW Officer of the Year

PHOTO BY CLAY NEELY

Newnan Police Officer Renee Edwards, who also serves as Ruth Hill Elementary School’s SRO, recently was honored as Officer of the Year by the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post. From left are VFW member Billy Alford, Edwards and Commander Bob Ward of VFW Post 2667.

Lewis named VFW Officer of the Year PHOTO BY CLAY NEELY

Newnan Police Officer Chris Lewis was presented with the VFW’s “Officer of the Year” award Friday morning at the Newnan Police Department. Members of the selection committee review submissions and make their decision based on multiple factors. Officer Lewis was nominated by Lt. David Schrepfer due to numerous “Life-Saving Awards,” dedication to his profession and exemplary performance during 2020. From left are Lt. David Schrepfer, Jay Maxwell, Bob Ward, Lewis, Chief Buster Meadows and Billy Alford.

2 5 , pu l l i n g i n f rom dozens of tractor-trailers that include nece s sa r y e s sentia ls a nd even of fer in g showers and laundry. “The community is the one backing us; we’re t a k i n g do n a t io n s ,” s a id New na n Police D eputy Chief Jay LaChance. “But (in) ty pica l New na n a nd C owet a C ou nty (f a sh ion of ) bein g over generous , they kind of overwhelmed us with the donations, and we had to hand it over to someone else to handle it.” Sta nding outside for 12-14 hours in one day can be exhausting. But placing more emphasis on helping p e ople other th a n themselves is why first responders Meadows and LaChance are not feeling burnt out, but more motivated. R eceiv ing encouragement from the community of Newnan has become the biggest motivation behind why they all are continuously doing what they do. “The biggest issue we’ve seen in our guys is fatigue and mental preparedness. We’re work ing ver y diligently to get our guys some time off through rotating shifts, utilizing other units besides the patrol shif t ,” Newnan deputy chief Mark Cooper said. “Everyone’s stress level is high, fatigue is high, and of course that bleeds into the other issues that we have to deal with down the road.” With ta k ing ca re of everything from COVID19 to a tor nado, C owet a County Sheriff Lenn Wood realizes that everything is always changing, and the key to how they are managing through the brunt of it

all is by taking each day as it comes. “Well it’s kind of managing chaos; everything has changed daily. So I guess our biggest responsibility i s m a k i n g su re ou r g uys a nd girls a re getting the mental help they need, as well as (the) physical care they need. It’s kind of hard to do, one insta nce a f ter another.” Cit i z e n s ne e d t o t a ke into account why officers, sheriffs and firefighters are out there working for others and the purpose they're serving. “Their ankles are hur ting, their knees, their back s . St a nd i n g on concrete and you’re fatigued. But knowing the suppor t that Newnan and Coweta County gives, helps,” said LaChance. Through it all, there is more than things. There are people that have purpose, a nd the s e f i r st re sp onders are just a small glimpse into the reality that they f ace du r i n g ex treme ci rcumst a nces, prov iding more insight that they are more than their badge, but citizens of Newnan. “ We t a k e c a r e o f o u r people, a nd these guys are wanting to do it,” said Newnan Fire Chief Stephen Brown. “It’s not just what they signed up for; this is who they are.” Meadows, as police chief, credits his community for being there and spreading out wa rd supp or t for not just this city, but to neighboring counties and cities to show them how closeknit Newnan and Coweta County truly is. A family within a city. “We all have someone we can lean on, and that helps a lot. It can get hectic at time s a nd cou ld put you down right out.”


20 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Hometown Heroes

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CCSO volunteers assemble 50 bikes for Toys for Tots BY CLAY NEELY

clay@newnan.com

It w a s a l l h a nd s on de ck l a s t Ch r istma s sea son at the C owet a County Sheriff’s Office. Approximately 50 childrens bikes were assembled by a large turnout of volu nteer s who a re a im in g to bring Christmas joy to those less fortunate. The i n iti ative w a s the ide a of local businesses owner C.J. D’Onofrio. For the last several years, he’s made it a personal mission to utilize resources online and in the community to help make each year bigger than the previous one. “It started as an idea to see if some buddies would throw in $10 0 for some kids’ bikes,” he recalled. “The idea was to help someone get something they would want, not about how much you could contr ibute. It’s what happens when ever yone contributes." In his first year, he was able to round up eight new bikes. The following year he got 13 , and 31 31 bikes were donated last year. This year, it was 50 bikes and thousands of dollars for toys, from donations made through TheOutdoorsTrader. com, where D’Onofrio is a member. With donations in hand, he made his way to Newnan Target to acquire the bikes and toys. “We cleaned out Target,” he said w ith a laugh. “ The ma nager provided some incredible discounts and personally pulled out 50 bikes from

PHOTOS BY CLAY NEELY

In the end, the group of volunteers helped build over 50 bikes and trikes.

Sheriff Lenn Wood tries out a bike. Ian Buchanan at Trek Newnan helps assemble a bike Saturday morning.

the back for us. It was incredible." Behind the sheriff’s office, boxes of bikes were unloaded and placed in small circles of four or five. Along with a Chick-fil-A breakfast provided by Tim Stout and bagels donated by Einstein Bagels, volunteers grabbed una ssembled bikes and got to work. The idea was to assemble all 50 bikes in 50 minutes. In the end, the bikes were assembled

TOYS for TOTS • 21

Emma D’Onofrio donates a stocking filled with items donated from local businesses for volunteers at the bike build.


Hometown Heroes — The Newnan Times-Herald — 21

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TOYS for TOTS FROM PAGE 20 in 30 minutes with time to spare. A l l bi ke s a nd t oys were then loaded into a trailer to be delivered to Toys For Tots. However, a f ter cre ati n g some Christmas magic, volunteers were surprised with some stockings for their ef for t. Inside were goodies donated from local businesses. S h e r i f f L e n n Wo o d t h a n k e d those who volunteered their time to help. “You’re going to make someone very happy this Christmas,” he said. “I didn’t expect such a large crowd, but I should have k now n better since you have servant’s hearts.” Major Warren Campbell praised the volunteers, citing his own personal connection to Toys for Tots. The son of a Marine who experienced some lean years, Campbell

knows firsthand the power of what the organization means for kids. “You don’t know what it’s going to be like for someone who didn’t have Christmas last year, but will wa ke up a nd se e th is ,” he s a id . “When things were down for us, we got our toys from Toys for Tots, and it’s a big deal. We’re doing this for the community, so our hearts are in this." With the last bikes loaded into a trailer, D’Onofrio said he’s already getting offers to help make the next year even bigger. “I didn’t reinvent the wheel, I’m just tr ying to organize it better each year,” he said. “I’m not a Facebook person, so when we try to do the right thing, it’s a group that makes it happen. None of this could happen without everyone else.”

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22 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Hometown Heroes

PUBLIC SAFETY 2021

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Hometown Heroes — The Newnan Times-Herald — 23

Community honors fallen CCSO investigator BY CLAY NEELY

clay@newnan.com

A

f ina l goodbye f rom loca l law en forc ement honore d for mer Coweta County Investigator Scott Carl. Carl, 49, passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, March 14, 2021. A procession of police vehicles down Jefferson Street took him to his final resting place at Oak Hill Cemetery. Carl came to work for the sheriff’s office in January 2019 after working with the Newnan Police Department for eight years. Carl retired from the U.S. Army in 2011 after 21 years of service. Carl was recently promoted to the Criminal Investigations Division of the sheriff’s office, according to Sheriff Lenn Wood. "Scott had an infectious smile and was a mentor to many here at the sheriff’s office,” Wood said. "He will be deeply missed.” He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Renea Hoy Carl, His two daughters Amanda (Kevin) Lites, Roni Lynn Carl and her significant other Bryson Dowler.

Members from the Newnan Fire Department honor Investigator Scott Carl as he’s carried to his final resting place at Oak Hill Cemetery. Carl, 49, passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, March 14, 2021.


24 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Hometown Heroes

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