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Gainesville swears in new chief Jay Parrish
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Jay Parrish takes the oath of office Tuesday as he is sworn in as police chief by Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey while Parrish's wife Katie looks on at the City Council meeting. - photo by Nick Watson

Humbled to take the helm, Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish took the oath of office Tuesday on a family bible during the City Council’s meeting and implored members of the community to work together in making the city “the envy of all communities.”

“I’m not worthy to lead you, but I am blessed and humbled to be chosen as your chief. Together we will go further. We will make the best better. We will become the solid line between right and wrong, between justice and injustice,” Parrish said to members of the department in a speech following the ceremony.

Flanked by his wife, Katie, and two sons, Grayson and Wyatt, Parrish was sworn in by city manager Bryan Lackey.

Lackey recognized retiring Chief Carol Martin, who was appearing for her last City Council meeting. Martin will continue working until Jan. 31.

Appointed to the role of chief in August 2014, Martin was “clearly the right person at the right time,” Lackey said.

And Parrish has big shoes to fill.

“Thank you for leaving the agency better than you found it. Unfortunately for me, you set the standard very, very high, and my every decision will always be compared to ‘what would Carol have done,’” Parrish said.

Speaking to a packed room of officers, friends, and other community leaders, Parrish thanked the crowd for their support, especially his family.

“Being married to a cop is very difficult. You’ve learned to carry on conversations with me in restaurants when my back was to a wall and I was watching everybody but you. You spent many nights alone when I was away in training, and you awoke many times to hearing the tearing of my velcro on my ballistic vest when I came in late from a call-out or working late evenings,” Parrish said to Katie.

The newly sworn-in chief addressed two challenges he hopes to combat as a community effort: the endemic issues of opioid abuse and mental health.

“Placing addicts in jail does not end the issue, nor does it rehabilitate the individual. We’ve got to adopt a team approach with our community to seek solutions,” he said.

Turning to mental health, Parrish said his department “must use the best in police practices and societal conversation.”

In other business

The council approved all of the resolutions on the consent agenda Tuesday, which include a lease on a property next to the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue and qualifying fees for next year’s election.

The lease concerned a 1.32-acre property attached to the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue from the state of Georgia to provide additional parking for the venue.

The lease price for the property in front of the boathouse would be $10 per year, with an initial one-year term and the option for renewal.

Positions for both City Council and the school board in wards 2, 3 and 5 will be on the ballot Nov. 5. Those positions on the City Council are currently held by Zack Thompson, Barbara Brooks and Ruth Bruner, respectively. The positions on the school board are held by John Filson, Willie Mitchell and Sammy Smith, respectively.

The qualifying fee will be $819 for City Council seats and $278.10 for the school board.

Reporter Megan Reed contributed to this report.