Valdosta bids police Chief Childress farewell
VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) — City residents lined up in a packed Mathis City Auditorium for their chance to wish Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress a happy retirement.
City officials and members of the public gathered Tuesday to share their personal stories about the chief and celebrate his legacy.
Childress has been with the VPD for 18 years. Childress joined the department as a lieutenant in 2001, was promoted to captain in 2004, named commander in 2007 and appointed chief in 2013.
His official retirement goes into effect Saturday, Sept. 1.
Calvin McGuyrt said he has known the chief since Childress first came to Valdosta. McGuyrt leads the annual Georgians Quartet Homecoming concert, which raises money for the Valdosta Police Department DARE program.
McGuyrt and his wife, Lavina, sit with Childress and his wife at the 50-yard line of every Valdosta Wildcats game.
“We’re close friends and I’ve already told him congratulations on a great career and keeping our community safe,” McGuyrt said. “We hate to see him go. He’s always been fair and honest and a remarkable chief for Valdosta.”
Mayor John Gayle seconded those words during the ceremony.
He said finding a replacement for Childress will be “mighty hard.” The city plans on announcing an interim police chief Friday afternoon.
City Manager Mark Barber complimented Childress on his many successful community programs and his openness and accessibility with the public.
“Chief worked diligently to create programs and pathways for community involvement,” Barber said.
Retired VPD patrolman Vernotis Williams was part of many public outreach programs under Childress. Williams said the chief always made sure he had what he needed to make a difference in underserved areas of the city.
While he was a crime prevention officer with the VPD, Williams said his programs were successful because Childress provided him with the funding he needed to do the job well.
“Childress was my fourth chief, and between him and Chief (Frank) Simons, they are unmatched as chiefs,” Williams said. “They both had an open-door policy, and they listened to their employees. Losing the chief, I think, is going to hurt the community. I don’t see anybody reaching the goal with the community that they have done.
“Simons started it off and Childress kept running with it,” he said. “Whoever fills that space has to hit the court running.”
Former VPD Chief Simons hired him to work for the department back in early 2001 after Childress left the Air Force. Simons spoke during the ceremony and said he was proud when Childress was selected to take over as chief.
“I’m proud of the work you have done, the job you have done, and I truly hope you enjoy retirement and the joys that come after,” Simons said. “You are not only a great guy but a great police officer and a great chief.”
After the ceremony, Childress said the entire event was great and he appreciates everyone’s kind words.
“I love you all,” he said. “We had a heck of a good time. I had a heck of a good time doing this job.”
As for who should replace him, Childress said he is leaving that up to the city manager. He said whoever is going to replace him needs to focus on three things: Juveniles, adults and people coming out of prison.
He emphasized a need to have a chief with a strong education and years of experience. Most importantly, he said, the new chief has to understand the importance of community policing.
Childress said there are plenty of people inside the department today who have all of these skills whether the city decides to hire them or not.
Although the ceremony was to observe his retirement, he said he doesn’t plan to completely leave law enforcement.
“Am I done with law enforcement? No,” Childress said. “I promised I would make (Valdosta) better when I got the job and we’ve done that. Crime is lower now. Clearance rates are high. I have finished every project that (former city manager) Larry Hanson and Mark Barber asked me to do, and I have no regrets.”
Information from: The Valdosta Daily Times, http://valdostadailytimes.com/