Gary Owens’ first job in law enforcement was washing Grovetown patrol cars as a teenager.
Now, he oversees the officers who drive those patrol cars.
Owens was recently named the new director of the Grovetown Department of Public Safety.
The Grovetown City Council voted on Monday to promote Owens.
“He got unanimous support from all four council people to promote him to chief,” Mayor George James said of Owens’ endorsement.
Council members interviewed Owens, the only applicant from within the department, during an executive session at their monthly meeting and then offered him the job.
“All four council people felt Gary would be a good fit and be able to do the job,” James said.
Owens started his law enforcement career 26 years ago at age 16, washing the department’s police cars.
But Owens decided to pursue a career in law enforcement after he became a part-time dispatcher in 1983. He became a certified officer in 1986. Owens rose to the rank of sergeant while serving on the road patrol, possibly driving some of the same cars he scrubbed clean years earlier.
After nine years with the department, Owens moved to Atlanta and served as a Georgia Department of Corrections surveillance officer. He also volunteered for the Atlanta Commission of Games, where he worked on the internal police force for the 1996 Olympics.
Owens worked for the corrections department in Augusta for a few years before returning to Grovetown law enforcement as captain and assistant chief in 2001.
“After 26 years, I felt that I wouldn’t short-sheet the department or the city,” Owens said of his reasons for applying for the director’s position. “(I’ll) bring the hometown personality. I’m here. This is my home. ... I felt that I could continue to bring progress to our department, a progressive attitude, trying new ideas.”
Former director Al Robinson was placed on administrative leave in March and resigned April 17 amid a private investigation into allegations of misconduct.
“It is not a negative thing,” Owens said of Robinson’s exit. “The past is the past. We’re going to move forward.”
Owens said he plans to make himself available to concerned residents and do his best to empower department employees.
“I think we’re ready to move forward,” Owens said. “I’ve got the support of the department, support of the council.”
Owens also said he’s instituted an open-door and open-ear policy within the department. He’s already organized meetings to hear suggestions from the
department command staff.
“If you close yourself to other people’s ideas, you become a dictator,” Owens said.
James said he expects Owens’ promotion to lead to some positive changes for public safety.
“He’s got a lot of good ideas,” James said. “I think it is going to improve.”
Owens said in his time as interim director he already made small changes that hopefully produced positive results in the daily work environment for
Also, he used grant funds and donations to start the department’s first canine unit – the department’s first dog arrived Monday.
Owens hopes to keep the department abreast of technology, to keep up with criminals and is willing to try new ideas.
“My motto is, ‘If it’s legal and moral, we’re trying it,’” Owens said.