A freshly hired Thomas Barnard showed up in Athens-Clarke County in January 1993 thinking he might retire as a corporal or a sergeant one day with the Department of Natural Resources.
Nearly 26 years later, with roughly a decade of that as the law enforcement supervisor for Lake Lanier, he is set to become colonel and director of the law enforcement division for DNR.
“When I first got hired, it was never a thought in my mind about even going up the ranks,” Barnard said. “I was proud to get the job. … And I never thought of landing in this position. You know how life’s road kind of carries you along, and God puts you in certain situations at certain times.”
DNR announced Nov. 19 that Barnard was appointed by DNR Commissioner Mark Williams to succeed Col. Eddie Henderson. DNR spokesman Mark McKinnon said the board will approve Barnard at a December meeting.
“Under Col. Henderson’s leadership, the division has worked hard to increase recruitment and retention, education and community involvement, and conservation enforcement. Col. Henderson has led the way in making these aspirations a reality,” Williams said in a statement. “I believe Thomas Barnard is the perfect fit to take on the challenge of continuing the division’s success. I know he will lead the division with strength and integrity.”
In 2015, Barnard was promoted to the DNR command staff, which involved supervision of more than 200 officers across seven regions.
“From the air you breathe, the water you drink, the outdoors that you enjoy, every citizen is affected by our natural resources in some sort of way,” Barnard said.
Barnard’s most recent responsibility has been field operations manager over the investigations and region offices, McKinnon said in a news release.
“Everyday (I) wake up, think about those officers that are in the field across the state and what can I do to make their job easier, better, look after them,” Barnard said.
His time with DNR has included deployments during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta working at the Georgia World Congress Center as well as working with Mississippi agencies in the Body Recovery Team during the deadly 2005 Hurricane Katrina.