None of them do it for the money because the money just isn’t there. They do it because they truly want to make a difference in the safety of our citizens.
There are times they have to fight. There are times they are cursed. They work weekends, nights and holidays. And they do it because they actually care.
Believe me when I tell you that after years of this it takes a toll on the officers, both physically and mentally. Too many times I see officers retire and then be buried within months. And that is the greatest fear of most officers.
G.Z. Fowler was a sergeant with the Georgia State Patrol for many years. Fortunately, or unfortunately, according to how you see it, he was stationed for years right here in his hometown. There are very few lifelong residents of our county that aren’t familiar with his name.
G.Z. made some friends through his service. And he also made some enemies. He had the reputation of being hardnosed when it came to law enforcement. I have even heard it said that G.Z. would have written his mother a ticket if he caught her speeding.
And it wasn’t just the public that thought of him this way. Even some of the troopers that worked for him thought he was tough on them at times. So I took it upon myself to ask one of his former troopers just how tough he was.
Danny Joe Chadwick told me that in all of the years he worked for G.Z., he never had a problem with him. But he went on to say that G.Z. expected his troops to do their job.
Imagine the atrocity of a boss holding their employees accountable. That is a concept that many in today’s workplace don’t understand. We can no longer just give an order but we must explain why so we don’t hurt someone’s self-esteem.
But G.Z. did his job regardless of the many darts that were thrown his way. Because that is what good lawmen do.
G.Z. and his wife, Trish, lived across the street from my parents. Unfortunately, G.Z. passed a couple of years ago.
Before he passed away, G.Z. had to take dialysis several times a week. It snowed one time and Trish asked if I would take him to dialysis in my four-wheel drive. “Of course,” was the answer.
Unlike many law enforcement officers, G.Z. didn’t spend our time talking reliving the glory moments from his days as a trooper. He had other interests that he enjoyed discussing more. He preferred to discuss his grandkids. Or at other times, he preferred to discuss his passion for restoring old cars.
However, in every discussion he was a humble and caring man. I did ask him once if he ever missed being with the State Patrol. He told me he didn’t miss the work but he did at times miss the people he worked with. He went on to say that Danny Joe Chadwick was as good of a trooper that he had ever seen. He meant it.
For all of those people that only saw and met G.Z. the trooper, I wish you could have known G.Z. the man. He was a husband, a father and a grandfather. And I can assure you that after his retirement from the State Patrol, he concentrated on being the best he could be at all three things.
G.Z. was able to enjoy several years of retirement even if some of that time was going back and forth to dialysis. Many in his profession don’t even get that much of an opportunity.
His funeral was filled with Georgia State Troopers and other law enforcement officers from around the state. Each one of them no doubt, if only for a moment, wondering what toll the job would take on their own lives.
So to his family I say this: Always hold your head up high knowing that G.Z. made a difference in our county. And thank the Lord that when it was time for him to retire his badge he had other interests that no doubt extended his time on Earth.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.