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Gainesville and Hall County public safety officials honored
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Mark Palen of the Georgia Department of Public Health takes the mic Tuesday morning to talk about his career at the Lanier Technical College Business Incubator at Featherbone University in Gainesville during a Masters of Safety ceremony honoring eight local public safety employees.

MASTERS OF SAFETY

Scott Stowers
Title: Gainesville Fire Department deputy chief
Years of service in Gainesville/Hall County: 22
Thoughts on public safety or advice: “We train to work under pressure.”

Joe Amerling
Title: Georgia Gang Association vice president, Gainesville Police Department
Years of service in Gainesville/Hall County: 20
Thoughts on public safety or advice: “I always wanted to be a good guy. I always wanted to be in law enforcement.”

Richard Mecum
Title: Hall County Board of Commissioners chairman, former Hall County sheriff
Years of service in Gainesville/Hall County: 35
Thoughts on public safety or advice: “Put people first. They come before anything else.”

Mark Palen
Title: North Health District Emergency Preparedness director, Georgia Department of Public Health
Years of service in Gainesville/Hall County: 11
Thoughts on public safety or advice: Paraphrasing Aristotle, “The way we become a good person ... is through habituation.”

Gail Lane-Seabolt
Title: Hall County 911 director
Years of service in Gainesville/Hall County: 21
Thoughts on public safety or advice: “Once you’re in, boy, you’ve got a family.”

Jennifer Davis
Title: Emergency Preparedness manager, Northeast Georgia Health System
Years of service in Gainesville/Hall County: 3
Thoughts on public safety or advice: “When people tell you you can’t do something, do it. You prove them wrong.”

Al Lovingood
Title: Hall County Fire Services battalion chief
Years of service in Gainesville/Hall County: 30
Thoughts on public safety or advice: “All of us look for mentors to steer us in the right direction.”

Steve Collins
Title: Adults Protecting Children founder
Years of service in Gainesville/Hall County: Organization started in 2010
Thoughts on public safety or advice: “Everyone in this room has been touched by this.”

These eight were named the Masters of Safety in a ceremony at the Lanier Technical College Business Incubator. The ceremony is a collaboration between Featherbone Communiversity and Lanier Tech for the Master Series Program.

Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle began the introductions with moderator Joel Williams of WDUN, noting the selflessness of those in public safety.

“They fix those issues, those problems ... and then they ride off into the sunset,” Cagle said.

Depictions of public service in TV and movies pushed some of the honorees into the direction of working in the field. Hall County Fire Services Battalion Chief Al Lovingood remembered watching the 1970s TV show “Emergency!” while the Gainesville Police Department’s Joe Amerling took inspiration from Al Pacino’s 1973 film “Serpico.”

“I always wanted to be a good guy,” said Amerling, who also works as the Georgia Gang Association’s vice president. “I always wanted to be in law enforcement.”

Constant training and preparation was a key message for the honorees, who mentioned the network needed to work successfully.

“Training for us is a daily thing,” Amerling said. “The criminals are younger. They’re smarter. They’re Internet-based now.”

Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Richard Mecum, also a former Hall sheriff, followed a career like that of his mother, who worked as the clerk of court in Fort Collins, Colo. At the age of 13, Mecum would sit in on trials and learn the law in the judge’s chambers afterward.

Honorees reminisced on their first days entering the career of public safety. After seeing an advertisement in the newspaper, the now Hall County 911 Director Gail Lane-Seabolt applied and accepted a job as a dispatcher in 1994.

“I’ve never gone into a job that made me feel so overwhelmed,” Lane-Seabolt said.

It was eight months in when managing the transmissions for a hectic call that she knew she would stick with it.

“I did not know until that day that I could do that job,” Lane-Seabolt said.

Lt. Col. Kevin Jarrard served as the keynote speaker, thanking the honorees for their constant service to the community.

“There is no place like home, and my home is here in Gainesville,” Jarrard said. “I’m proud to be one of you.”

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