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Jock Connell: You can rely on Hall County’s emergency responders
Jock Connell 2017.jpg
Jock Connell

Perceptions are funny things. The unique thing about them is that different people can take the same set of facts and draw completely different conclusions. 

After reading the editorial on Hall County Fire Services in The Times on April 29, I feel it is important for me to share my perspective of the men and women who serve as members of Hall County Fire Services:

I see a group of men and women who, on a daily basis, selflessly commit themselves to serving the well-being of the citizens of this community. This is demonstrated daily as they respond to calls to protect property, render life-saving medical care, deliver babies, provide invaluable educational services throughout this county, and I could go on and on. They do their job in a selfless, sacrificial way, probably never knowing the positive, life-changing impacts their actions have for years to come on the individuals and families they help.

You see, approximately 35 years ago, my wife was expecting our first child. That child was born 2« months premature, weighing 3 pounds and 2 ounces, and was nearly small enough to fit into the palm of my hand. My son is alive today by the grace of God and by the actions of Dekalb County Fire and Emergency Services personnel, who delivered him in the back of an ambulance and cared for my wife during a breach birth as the two were rushed to Dekalb General Hospital.

The actions of those first responders forever changed the lives of my wife and me, just as the actions of Hall County Fire Services personnel have changed the lives of countless others in the most powerful ways. I’m sure many of you have similar stories you could share that also speak to the value and true heroism of the men and women who serve as members of the public safety community.

These men and women have a deep and sincere commitment to the work that they do. They truly care about people and are concerned for their well-being. That care and concern they possess will continue to serve as the heartbeat of Hall County Fire Services and as the foundational fiber by which this organization will become the very best it can be.

I realize there are issues that need to be addressed within Hall County Fire Services, but let me ask you this: Are there not issues abounding in every department, in every organization, and in every individual (not excluding myself) that need to be improved upon? We all have work that needs to be done.

So where do we go from here? In the coming weeks, we will begin the process of hiring a new fire chief. The details of that process are still being worked out, but I can assure you that the next fire chief will be thoroughly vetted for the job. The end goal will be to hire someone who possesses the abilities, character, integrity, values, morals and leadership skills that will help motivate and move this organization forward in a positive and productive way. 

Not only will we expect these traits in the fire chief, but also from every member of this department. I know both current and future members of Hall County Fire Services will expect the same.

I want you to know that I am incredibly optimistic about the future of Hall County Fire Services, and I am extremely proud to be associated with each of its members. However, I want to be clear: We have a lot of hard work to do, we have a lot of difficult decisions to make, and we won’t get there quickly or without some growing pains. I have absolutely no doubt that by working together, we have the opportunity to surpass any and all obstacles and reach the highest level of success possible as we continue to preserve the rich heritage of the department while embracing the future. Our success will be incumbent upon all of us working together in order to succeed. 

In closing, let me say two things: first, as a citizen of this county, you are in good and qualified hands when you are being treated, transported or aided by the men and women of Hall County Fire Services. 

Secondly, and I mean this: Every employee of Hall County Government is important and valued. I sincerely appreciate them and what they do.

Jock Connell is Hall County administrator. Contact him at 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville, P.O. Drawer 1435, Gainesville 30503, 770-535-8288,; email,