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Avery Niles now oversees state’s juvenile justice agency

POSTED: October 31, 2012 11:30 p.m.

Avery Niles, a longtime law enforcement and corrections official in Hall County, starts his new job today as interim commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.

Niles is replacing L. Gale Buckner, who announced her retirement during an Oct. 3 meeting of the Georgia Board of Juvenile Justice in Decatur. She now will serve as chief magistrate judge in Murray County.

In taking the new job, Niles gave up his role as chairman of the DJJ board. The board is slated to elect a new chairman at its Nov. 15 meeting.

Niles, who retired from Hall County after 27 years, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, despite several attempts.

His last day as warden of the Hall County Correctional Institute was Wednesday. He previously served as commander of the Hall County Detention Center and is a 23-year veteran of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, according to biographical information on the DJJ website.

“We certainly appreciate Avery’s service to the county for these many years,” Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton said in a previous interview. “He certainly has been a very valuable public servant and we hate to lose any employees who contribute as much as he does.”

Niles, also a trustee of the Gainesville State College Foundation Board, also received praise from the DJJ, where he has served as board chairman for about a year.

“He has worked hand in hand with (Buckner), and the board has been extremely supportive of all the measures she has put into place,” said Jim Shuler, department spokesman.

Shuler deferred comments about the search for a full-time commissioner to Gov. Nathan Deal’s office.

Under Georgia law, the commissioner is appointed by the board subject to the governor’s approval.

“Our hope is to make him permanent at some point in the near future,” Deal spokeswoman Stephanie Mayfield said.

Dennis Udzinski, who has served as the deputy warden of the Hall institution, will take over as the interim warden today.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners named him to the post until a permanent hire could be made.

The position has been posted “and we are in the process of reviewing applications,” Knighton said.

No time frame for a permanent hire has been set “because we do not know how the search will unfold,” he said. “We are collectively focused on obtaining the best candidate and will take the time necessary to ensure that happens.”


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