A former Georgia state trooper and sheriff will serve as the interim commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Gov. Brian Kemp said Wednesday.
The Board of Public Safety voted unanimously to approve law enforcement veteran Gary Vowell to take over on March 1, Kemp said.
"Gary Vowell is a respected and trusted leader within Georgia's law enforcement community, and he is a strong public servant who is ready to take the helm at the Department of Public Safety," Kemp said in an emailed statement. "Given his background, I know that Gary will be able to easily transition in this important role.”
The move comes one week after Kemp told Mark McDonough, the current commissioner, that he would be seeking a new leader for the DPS. McDonough, appointed to lead the department in 2011, announced his retirement the following day.
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In January, McDonough announced that a cheating scandal cost 30 newly hired troopers their jobs. The scandal likely cost him his job, McDonough said.
Vowell, a Georgia native, began his law enforcement career in 1976 in Americus as a communications officer with the Georgia State Patrol, according to Kemp’s office. In 1991, Vowell was promoted to the GSP safety education division and later became a certified Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) instructor for alcohol and drug awareness programs.
In 1996, Vowell retired from the GSP. Later that year, he was elected sheriff of Tift County. Vowell held the position until his retirement in 2012.
"I was honored to receive the Governor's call to serve as interim commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, and I am deeply thankful to the board for their confidence in my ability to lead such a critical function of our government," Vowell said in a written statement. "My entire career has been devoted to keeping Georgia families safe and upholding the highest ideals of integrity in our law enforcement community, and I look forward to working in the Kemp administration.”
Vowell lives in Irwin County with his wife, and they have three sons and six grandchildren.