Meet your government
Every Monday, The Times takes a look at someone who keeps local government running smoothly. Previous articles in the series can be found online at gainesvilletimes.com.
Avery Niles says litter has always been a pet peeve of his. Now he’s in a good position to do something about it.
As warden of the Hall County Correctional Institution, Niles oversees a inmate labor pool of 240 who spend much of their days picking up trash, mowing grass and performing other jobs throughout Hall County.
For Niles, 42, it’s a new job, but not a new career. He spent 21 years at the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, including eight as jail commander, before taking over the correctional institution in 2008.
"It’s a big difference, but the mission is the same," Niles said. "To house inmates and provide a safe and secure facility."
The correctional institution is a county-run inmate labor facility that houses inmates who have been convicted of crimes and are serving sentences in the state prison system. Many of those serving long-term sentences arrive at correctional institutions in the final three to five years of their prison term. None committed their crimes in Hall County.
While Niles saw a constant turnover of inmates when he was in charge of the old Hall County Jail, he gets to know his long-term charges better in his new job.
"One day they look to get out of the system and return home, and I hope they leave here better off then when they came," Niles said.
Niles is a native of Hall County and 1985 graduate of Gainesville High School, where he played football. He joined the Hall County Sheriff’s Office as a patrol officer, taking a cue from his older brother, Adrian, who at the time worked at the Gainesville Police Department.
Niles cites big brother Adrian, a minister and former public works director for the city of Gainesville, as the most influential person in his life.
"He’s my biggest hero," Niles said.
Niles said it was with mixed emotions that he left the sheriff’s office to take over at the CI following the retirement of former warden Don Nix. But ultimately, he said, it made sense.
"It was a good career move for me," said Niles, who openly aspires to be Hall County sheriff one day, though he says he would never run against three-term incumbent Steve Cronic. "I wanted the experience of being a (county) department head instead of a division commander."
If Niles wasn’t in law enforcement, he said he would probably be a funeral director. He’s working on completing his mortuary science degree and may consider the funeral home business when he eventually leaves law enforcement.
"It’s another form of service," Niles said. "You always want to have someone that can treat your late loved one with respect."
Niles, who is married with a 16-year-old daughter, is also a self-professed golf nut.
"If I’m off and away from work, my golf clubs are usually in my car," he said.