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Interim public safety commissioner named following Georgia State Patrol cheating allegations
Gary Vowell
Gary Vowell

Former Tift County Sheriff Gary Vowell will be the state’s interim public safety commissioner, after the Board of Public Safety unanimously approved his appointment Wednesday, Feb. 19.

Vowell will begin the role March 1.

“Gary Vowell is a respected and trusted leader within Georgia's law enforcement community, and he is a strong public servant who is ready to take the helm at the Department of Public Safety,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement. “Given his background, I know that Gary will be able to easily transition in this important role.”

Vowell started his law enforcement career in 1976 in Americus as a communications officer for the Georgia State Patrol. He graduated as a member of the 51st Trooper School and was assigned to Post 13 in Tifton. He was later promoted to serve as a field training officer.

In 1991, Vowell was promoted to the GSP Safety Education Division and later became a certified Peace Officer Standards and Training instructor for alcohol and drug awareness programs. 

Vowell retired from the state patrol in 1996, the same year he was elected Tift County sheriff. As sheriff, he supervised 115 employees and managed the county’s 265-bed jail. He retired from public office in late 2012. He was appointed by former Gov. Nathan Deal to serve on the Board of Public Safety from 2011 to 2012.

“I was honored to receive the governor's call to serve as interim commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, and I am deeply thankful to the board for their confidence in my ability to lead such a critical function of our government,” Vowell said in a statement. “My entire career has been devoted to keeping Georgia families safe and upholding the highest ideals of integrity in our law enforcement community, and I look forward to working in the Kemp administration.”

The Governor’s Office is seeking a permanent public safety commissioner, and anyone interested in the position can email

Former Public Safety Commissioner Col. Mark McDonough announced his resignation Feb. 13 after Kemp told McDonough he wanted new leadership. In January, 30 troopers were fired after being accused of cheating on an online exam for the speed detection operator component of the trooper school’s curriculum. One trooper resigned after the cheating allegations came to light. All of them were August graduates of the 106th Trooper School.

Two troopers assigned to the Gainesville post were among those dismissed.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.