Joey Mazzari has a sort of folk hero status in Flowery Branch and those that patronize the Spout Springs Road Publix thanks to his big smile and friendly disposition.
His amicable nature is something Police Chief David Spillers wanted for every person that wears the badge.
“Everybody knows me,” said Mazzari, 53, a bespectacled man with a perpetual grin.
Mazzari, who lives with Down syndrome, was sworn in as an honorary officer at a Flowery Branch Council meeting in August.
When the chief presented Mazzari with a badge of his own on Aug. 16, he leapt up in excitement.
“After the ceremony, we went out front and there were about three or four police cars parked there. He asked Chief Spillers, ‘Which one is mine?,’” said Al Mazzari, Joey’s father.
His charm and warm personality has been a lesson not just for his fellow employees at Publix, but for the police department that Mazzari so respects.
“His behavior, his ability to deal with people and have a kind word is what I would love to see in all of my police officers,” Spillers said.
Arriving to a packed council meeting room, Mazzari’s stunned parents did not know who spread the word of the ceremony.
“We were moved,” Al Mazzari said. “We cried, as did the 100-some-odd residents of Sterling on the Lake.”
Most people who know Mazzari have seen him around Sterling on the Lake or Publix, where he has worked for 11 years since the family moved to Flowery Branch.
“The (Atlanta) Falcons pictures are from some of the guys that come in and see him at Publix, including the cheerleaders,” Al Mazzari said.
In his room, which is more like a museum — photographs, “The Wizard of Oz” film memorabilia and baseballs — Mazzari displayed a set of law enforcement badges he’s received over the years. The love of law enforcement is something his father said started when they lived in New York.
“Our best friend was the SWAT chief in New York, was almost like Joey’s uncle. They still call each other every week,” his father said.
The walls were lined with pictures of every celebrity and singer he’s met. Al Mazzari claimed his son has every country western CD that’s been made.
And of course, Elvis. A full-size cutout of The King stood in the corner with his classic white belt, and Mazzari has dressed up as the performer on occasion.
“Everybody that’s ever met Joey, everybody that knows Joey, they love Joey. Joey is very unique,” Spillers said. “He has a smile and a kind word for everybody that he sees, and that’s something that this community just needs more and more of.”