Avery Niles, warden of the Hall County Correctional Institution, has been named interim commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.
Niles will replace Commissioner L. Gale Buckner, who announced her retirement at a special meeting Wednesday of the Georgia Board of Juvenile Justice in Decatur. She is leaving Nov. 1 to become chief magistrate judge in Murray County.
Niles, who is the board chairman, is stepping down from the board Oct. 31 to assume the post. The DJJ board will elect a new chairman at its Nov. 15 meeting.
He couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday night.
“He, in effect, would likely be retiring (after 27 years) from the county and then assuming this new post,” Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton said.
“We certainly appreciate Avery’s service to the county for these many years. He certainly has been a very valuable public servant and we hate to lose any employees who contribute as much as he does.
“At the same time, we’re very proud and excited for him in this new opportunity. I think it speaks well of him individually and of Hall County employees that he would be identified as the lead candidate to assume this interim role.”
Niles 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.
He is the third vice president of the Georgia Prison Wardens’ Association and a trustee of the Gainesville State College Foundation Board.
Niles has served as the DJJ’s chairman for about a year.
“He has worked hand in hand with Commissioner Buckner, and the board has been extremely supportive of all the measures she has put into place,” said Jim Shuler, department spokesman.
About a year ago, after the department suffered a fatality at the Augusta facility, Buckner “immediately went about the job of strengthening the safety and security measures ... and had the full support of the board,” Shuler said.
Niles “is going to be up to speed in assuming this interim position,” he added. “He’s got the corrections background. He knows what the agency was up against during the past year. ... He is exceptionally prepared and qualified to do the job.
“There’s a great deal of appreciation for the fact that someone of his caliber is going to come in (to) take over the reins.”
Naming a full-time commissioner “is completely up to the governor,” Shuler said.
Knighton said he is still researching all the details concerning Niles’ replacement. He did note that the Hall County Board of Commissioners ultimately appoints the warden.