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Dawson lawman honored as one of magazine's '40 under 40'
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Gainesville City Board of Education member-elect Sammy Smith talks about sending out a mailer about the board’s decisions regarding Superintendent Steven Ballowe’s pay and benefits, then gives his reaction to a letter he received from Ballowe on the matter.

DAWSONVILLE — Dawson County Sheriff’s Maj. Kevin Tanner never regretted foregoing other opportunities to enter the field of law enforcement.

The first-generation lawman was encouraged out of high school to pursue a career in business or some other less-risky profession, but stuck to his guns.

"I don’t think my mother or father was crazy about their son getting into law enforcement," said Tanner, whose father owned Tanner’s Timber Company and built the Dawsonville Dairy Queen, the first name-brand fast food restaurant in town. "Parents want their children to be lawyers and bankers, to do safer things. But they were always supportive."

While still a senior at Dawson County High School, Tanner signed up with the sheriff’s office as an 18-year-old jailer/dispatcher and became an investigator within a year.

At 19, he graduated from police academy and was permitted to carry a handgun before he could legally buy one. Along the way he earned his bachelor’s degree, and later master’s degree, while remaining a full-time sheriff’s employee.

Tanner, now 35, was recently recognized by Georgia Trend magazine as one of its "40 under 40," a recognition of some of the state’s best and brightest under the age of 40. He serves as chief deputy for Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle, a position he has held since 1998.

Tanner oversees day to day operations of a sheriff’s office that has grown from 12 employees when he started there in 1990 to 120 today. He was project manager for the county’s recently-completed $16 million sales tax-funded law enforcement center.

He also finds time to serve on boards for Rotary and the Boy Scouts of America, among other organizations.

All these achievements at a young age beg the question — when will Kevin Tanner run for Dawson County Sheriff?

"I never, ever, considered running for sheriff," insists Tanner, who counts Carlisle as a close friend and mentor and vows to never run against the three-term sheriff. "People have asked me when he retires one day, if I will run for sheriff. My answer is I have no plans to run. I’m very happy where I am."

Tanner, who accepted and then later declined a position with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in the mid-1990s, says he simply enjoys making a difference in the place he has always called home.

"I like working at the local level, where at the end of the day you can really see the fruits of your labor," Tanner said. "To me, that’s important. To be able to look back and see the ways you may have made some degree of difference in your community."

Tanner said while he was surprised and honored by Georgia Trend’s recognition, the credit goes to the officers and staff of the sheriff’s office, which he said has "turned 180 degrees" in its level of professionalism during his tenure there.

"I think it’s not just an honor for me but an honor to the community" Tanner said. "Living here all my life, I’ve seen a lot of good people go overlooked in Dawson County. We’ve got a lot of people in the trenches who just don’t get the same recognition."

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