I grew up in Welcome, North Carolina in the Piedmont area. After graduating from North Davidson Senior High School in 1968, I was notified I was going to be drafted in the U.S. Army and was probably going to be sent to Vietnam. As destiny would have it, I was able to enlist in the United States Coast Guard. I was accepted into the Guard in January, 1970 and completed a six year tour with a rank of Boatswains mate 1st class.
My experience with the Coast Guard was very diverse with many responsibilities that included enforcement of boating laws, drug interdiction, port security, and environmental and immigration enforcement. I was a boat captain in charge of a rescue boat and crew involving law enforcement and rescue operations. My unit conducted hundreds of enforcement operations, search and rescues, emergency medical responses and evacuations, firefighting, air/sea operations involving helicopter and fixed wing aircraft, and large scale operations that included numerous local, state, federal agencies, and many civilian resources.
These rescues included boating accidents and emergencies from small pleasure boats to larger documented vessels. I was a supervisor with many responsibilities and acting Officer of the Coast Guard Station in the absence of the Officer in Charge. As acting officer in charge, I was responsible for the immediate mobilization and coordination with numerous agencies for an initial response in law enforcement, sea/air search and rescues and medical evacuations.
I left the U.S Coast Guard after six years of active duty and remained in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve for another two years.
I attended the Florida Police Standards Training school where I obtained my Florida Law Enforcement Certification. My goal was to work as a Florida Marine patrol officer but I quickly found out it was like Sevier County, if you didn't know anyone or were related to anyone, you didn't get a job. I then attended Piedmont Technical School in Roxboro, North Carolina learning the trade of Taxidermy. In March of 1977, I was given a law enforcement position with the National Park Service. I attended the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy where I obtained a Federal Law Enforcement Commission. I worked as a National Park Ranger at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola, Florida for 13 years. In July 1990 I accepted a position at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to include in my career, personnel management, supervision, purchasing and budget management. I have training in supervision and completed training with the Office of Personnel Management in Supervision and EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) management. I have interviewed and selected personnel for position hiring and conducted objective employee evaluations using performance standards assigned to each position.
Law enforcement and officer safety was my primary goal and responsibility as a National Park Ranger. While one would not expect a Park Ranger to be involved with major law enforcement issues, I can assure you I have investigated or assisted in many serious situations. The ultimate being the shooting and killing of Park Rangers. During my career, I had the opportunity to work very closely with (and on a daily basis) 3 out of 4 Park Rangers that were shot and killed in the line of duty in the National Park Service. I have contributed to the investigation and apprehension of the thugs responsible. In May of 1990, Bob McGhee was a ranger and co-worker at Gulf Islands National Seashore who was shot and killed by an escaped convict. While having been closely associated with local officers that had been shot and killed, this was very different and changed my line of thinking, doing business, and dealing with daily threats that can happen at a moment's notice.
Joe Kolodski was a ranger at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and was shot and killed on Father's Day in 1998. Joe and I were classmates while attending the Federal Law Enforcement Academy. Joe and I then became co-workers, working daily in a variety of situations. The dramatic investigation and apprenhesion of the man that killed Joe is still vividly clear. Observing his bullet riddled vehicle and participating in the massive man-hunt was overwhelming as there were hundreds of law enforcement officers present within minutes to apprehend the suspect.
I worked with Chris Eggle while he was at the Great Smoky Mountains, but later he transferred to Arizona where he was ambushed and killed by Mexican "coyotes" while attempting to apprehend illegal immigrants and drug traffickers in Organ Pipe National Park in Arizona, 2002. Many are skeptical and disallusioned as to the actual duties and qualifications of a National Park Ranger and think everyday is 'a day in the park' with the bears and the flowers. These officers clearly define the term "Law Enforcement Officers."
I have an extensive background in investigating, apprehending and prosecuting serious criminal incidents that include murders, rapes, larceny, auto theft, poaching and many other crimes against persons and property as well as environmental crimes. I have completed on-going recertifications and training required to maintain a Federal Law Enforcement Commission. I have investigated hundreds of vehicle accidents including numerous fatalities and made arrests for Driving under the Influence of Alcohol, as well as arrests for manslaughter and 2nd degree murder, resulting in deaths. I have prepared investigative reports for Federal District Court for the prosecution of criminal activities and prepared and given testimony in many state and local courts as well.
I also worked on many different assignments all across the United States including Alaska and Puerto Rico. I have interacted and worked very closely with almost all the Federal Law Enforcement agencies as well as numerous state agencies, including Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Mississippi Law Enforcement, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, several highway patrol units, local police departments, and Sheriff departments in a wide variety of incidents from poaching to homicide. I have maintained a Federal Security Clearance Background Investigation for over 30 years. I have maintained Emergency Medical certifications for over 30 years, certified firearms instructor, certified in Wild Land Fire Arson investigation, Member of Federal Inter-Agency Firefighting team in large forest fires across the country.
As a National Park Ranger I have trained extensively in a wide range of activities that also include Search and Rescue. I have participated as a team leader and team member in several serious searches and rescues and medical emergencies that include high angle and repelling rescues, swift water rescues, cave rescues and organizing and conducting numerous lost person searches. A list of duties and accomplishments could go on.
My career has allowed me to participate in a wide variety of experiences from rescuing wildlife, wildlife removal and immobilization to the investigation of serious crimes against persons. With a very diverse experience in many areas of public service, I feel like I have a broader knowledge of providing law enforcement as well as providing community service. I would like to see the Sevier County Sheriff Department as a professional police and service agency rather than just 'cops.' I have identified a few deputies within the Sheriff's department that are very impersonal and intimidating and these few overshadow the professional officers that are actually doing the work. These 'cops' are part of the good "ole boy program" and have known for years that no one will touch them because of the practice of taking care of family and friends at the expense of the regular citizens.