Current and former county officials and judges joined the Hall County Humane Society in honoring Phillips’ 31 years of service Monday evening at the Humane Society on West Ridge Road. Phillips will retire from the county government position on April 25.
"He pretty much started animal control," said Rick Aiken, president of the Hall County Humane Society. "When he started, there was no animal control. He developed it. He’s done an awful lot for this community and the animals."
In 1977, Hall County government hired Phillips as the county’s first animal control officer. He said his office at that time was a converted hamburger stand.
"(Hall County Animal Control) has gone from one person and a very minimal ordinance to a well-working ordinance the commission has put into place with a staff of eight," Phillips said.
Animal Control handles all animal-related cases in the county, and Phillips said the department fields about 600 phone calls every month, ranging from complaints regarding neighbors’ pets to reports of animal cruelty.
Phillips said he has long maintained a policy at Animal Control to return every phone call.
The animal control department addresses bite cases, rabies control, potentially dangerous animals, loose animals and investigates suspected animal cruelty cases.
Phillips said he has encountered various species during his time as the Hall County Animal Control supervisor. Phillips said he has responded to calls involving cats, dogs, chickens, goats, horses, bears and even emus.
"If it’s come through the county, we’ve seen it," he said.
Phillips said his most unusual find was a pair of bear cubs he bottle fed and nursed to health. He oversaw the transportation of the bear cubs to a rehabilitation center in the Okefenokee swamp in southern Florida, which later released them into the wild.
During the retirement reception Monday, Aiken presented Phillips with a plaque declaring that the Hall County Animal Control complex on West Ridge Road will soon bear Phillips’ name in honor of his service to the department.
Phillips accepted the plaque and said he was grateful for being paid to do what he loves.
"I could stand up here and say I did a job no one wanted to do, but that’s not the case. The Lord game me the gift to work with animals, and I’m blessed Hall County paid me to do it," he said.
Aiken said Phillips, unlike many animal control supervisors elsewhere, worked closely with the Humane Society and played a pivotal role in ensuring a high quality of life for thousands of animals in the county.
Doug Derrer, former Hall County Public Works director, attended the retirement reception and said he worked in Hall County government with Phillips for 27 years.
Derrer said Phillips did an excellent job managing the staff and budget of the animal control department and diligently returned phone calls.
"A lot of irate people call complaining about someone else’s animal, and it’s important to deal with them and respond to them properly and come up with some kind of solution," Derrer said.
"I call him the dog whisperer," Derrer said. "He looks into their eyes and relates to them and is able to capture them and do his job. He just has a way with animals like no one I’ve ever seen."