Gloria Crosby holds many Columbia County titles.
She was the county’s first female police officer, the first female sheriff and, with more than 46 years of service, is the longest-serving county employee.
“You don’t see too many people that have that many years,” Crosby said. “It’s a good place to work..”
Crosby has worn many hats in her tenure, most notably as the county’s interim sheriff after Sheriff Otis Hensley’s death in October 1994. Crosby was Hensley’s executive assistant when he died.
Crosby’s friend and then-Probate Judge Pat Hardaway asked her to wear the badge until a permanent replacement could be chosen in a special election.
“Judge Hardaway wanted somebody who wasn’t going to run for sheriff,” Crosby said – but Hardaway asked her not to tell anyone until she was formally announced and sworn in more than a month later. “You’re talking about hard. ... Everybody gathered there at the sheriff’s office. Everybody was making bets on who was going to be the sheriff.
“I know it was just shining on my face that it was going to be me.”
She was one of only two female sheriffs in Georgia and was the county’s first female certified police officer in 1981.
Crosby performed nearly every function at the sheriff’s office except road patrol. She was a jailer and 911 dispatcher. Crosby was the Criminal Investigations secretary for three years before accepting an investigator position, where she worked to solve sex crimes and crimes against children.
“I worked that for like eight years, and it got to me,” Crosby said. “Those little kids, I wanted to take them home with me. ... It’d break your heart.”
From there, Crosby went to work directly for Hensley. That’s where she helped a young future county administrator, Scott Johnson, get his start in law enforcement.
Johnson, who’d met Hensley and applied for a job at the sheriff’s office, called Hensley’s office often.
“Apparently, I called one too many times because I really wanted this job. I always talked to Gloria,” said Johnson, who has since retired from the Georgia State Patrol. Crosby bugged Hensley to hire Johnson so he’d stop calling. “Gloria gets credit for getting my foot in the door to start my career.”
As sheriff, Crosby had to deal with the expected, but minor, struggles of leading a group of male deputies, but loved dealing with the citizens.
“I really enjoyed being the sheriff because I got to see a lot of people,” Crosby said. “When people would call and they would want to talk to the sheriff, you didn’t send the chief or a lieutenant, you went yourself. They want to talk to you and nobody else.”
Crosby led the sheriff’s office for about six months until Sheriff Clay Whittle was elected in April 1995.
She left the sheriff’s office the next month to work for her longtime friend, Hardaway, in Probate Court. Crosby is the traffic court coordinator in the office.
“She knows more about how traffic courts run and traffic laws than I’ll ever learn,” Probate Judge Alice Padgett said. “I just think she’s just a huge asset to this office and to the county in general.”
The Appling native and lifelong county resident started her county career at age 17 as a Columbia County Water Utility clerk in May 1963.
Since then, she’s seen a lot of change and growth in the once rural county.
“At that time, we had (more than) 660 customers,” Crosby said. “We’ve got that in one little subdivision now. That was my first real job, making $1 an hour.”
Crosby worked in Water Utility for more than 14 years, but left in October 1977 to pursue other ventures. She returned as a sheriff’s office employee in July 1981.
Though she’s got more than 46 years of county employment under her belt, Crosby said she hasn’t yet considered retirement, except on Sundays when she gets ready to return home from her brother’s Beaufort, S.C., retreat.
“Everybody asks when I’m going to retire,” Crosby said. “I tell them when I get old enough. I’m not old enough yet.”
Johnson said loyalty like Crosby’s is what he’d like in all employees, but it’s not unusual. Crosby was honored for the 45 years she’d worked as of the end of the year at an April Board of Commissioners meeting. County officials also recognized four retirees who averaged 24 years of employment and anniversaries of 160 employees with 1,785 years of combined service.
“She’s not alone,” Johnson said, “because there are a lot of good, loyal, longtime employees.”
Crosby said her job is interesting and she plans to keep doing it.
“Every day I think I’ve seen it all, then there’s something new the next day.”