Cobb County Government

Major Tony Coker receives Cobb Chamber Public Safety of the Year award

Article and photo courtesy of the Marietta Daily Journal.
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Chamber of Commerce honors local officials for dedication to safety
By Michelle Graff Marietta Daily Journal Staff Writer

ATLANTA - Two police officers solely responsible for saving the lives of others and a man who had dedicated a quarter-century of his life to public safety were among the honorees at the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce's 9th annual Public Safety Appreciation breakfast.

Held Monday at the Cobb Galleria Centre, the breakfast recognizes police officers, firefighters, EMS personnel, sheriff's deputies, park rangers, state patrol and 911 operators for their dedication in the field of public safety.

Taking home top honors Monday was Maj. Tony Coker of the Cobb County Police Department, who was named Cobb's Public Safety Employee of the Year. After 25 years of service with the Cobb County Police Department, Coker has done everything from traffic enforcement to the SWAT team to heading the detective division. As executive officer to Cobb County Public Safety Director Mickey Lloyd, Coker now shoulders some of the responsibilities for the county's homeland security. In an interview after the breakfast on Monday, he said his biggest concern with homeland security in Cobb is not preparedness but advising the public of how prepared the county actually is.

"Cobb is a very well prepared county but our biggest challenge is making the community aware of that," Coker said. Coker, 49, lives in Kennesaw.

He and his wife, Phyllis, a former police officer and EMT who now works as a nurse at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, have three children, ages 16 to 29. Ms. Coker said she was proud to see her husband win the honor of public safety officer of the year. "There's so many good people that were nominated that were deserving," Ms. Coker said.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue served as guest speaker at Monday's breakfast, which marked the kick-off to the chamber's Public Safety Appreciation Week that began Monday and goes through Oct. 12. In his speech, Perdue said that the increased appreciation for public safety officials following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 was long overdue. "I think it was high time," he said. He said since 9/11, the state of Georgia has received about $47 million in homeland security funding, the majority of which has been passed on to local public safety offices, which will be the first responders in any homeland security situation.

Also honored at Monday's breakfast were Sgt. Bobby McGee of the Cobb County Police Department and officer Kenneth Owens of the Smyrna Police Department.

Both received the Chamber's Awards of Merit for saving the lives of two people in separate suicide attempts. In November, the 39-year-old McGee responded to a call of a man attempting to take his own life by jumping off the portion of South Cobb Drive that spans the Chattahoochee River. McGee, of Acworth, said he talked to the man for about 5-6 minutes, before finally convincing him to back down off the ledge. This is not the first time the chamber has recognized McGee's efforts as a police officer. Last year, McGee, who worked at the Hall County Sheriff's Office before coming to Cobb County 12 years ago, received accolades for saving the life of a woman in a similar situation.

"I've been doing this 20 years," he said. "I know how to calm them down, I think."

Owens, a 34-year-old who has worked with the Smyrna Police Department for two years, ran across a similar situation while on routine patrol in March when he spotted a man about to jump off the Spring Road Bridge. Married and the father of three children, the officer risked his own life by wrestling the man over the guardrail and away from the edge of the bridge, even though the man was fighting desperately to jump. Owens' wife, Michelle, said she was so proud when she heard what her husband had done, that she made him bring the videotape made from his patrol car home so the family could watch it. She said she had no idea her husband had such good negotiating skills.

"I watched it and was amazed," she said. "It was a little overwhelming. They (the children) were proud to see their dad save the guy."

The Chamber also recognized three Cobb County programs at Monday's breakfast for their innovative approach to public safety: Drug Treatment Court of Cobb County Superior Court, an alternative to jail time for first-time drug offenders; the Marietta Fire Department's fire extinguisher training aid and Cobb County-based security company Chesley Brown International's Security Advisory Messenger (S.A.M). The S.A.M system notifies employees at shopping centers about important public safety information, such as a missing child or homeland security threat.

Copyright © 2003 Marietta Daily Journal. All rights reserved. All other trademarks and Registered trademarks are property of their respective owners.