Police chief calls it quits

Thu, 08/14/2008 - 3:32pm
By: Ben Nelms

Police chief calls it quits

It is the end of a law enforcement era. Palmetto Police Chief Bobby Fronebarger recently announced his retirement after more than four years in south Fulton city and more than 41 years in law enforcement. His retirement takes effect Sept. 2. Fronebarger is known for his professional approach to law enforcement and for a laid-back style that is always accompanied by a smile.

In the words of Mayor John Miller, Fronebarger is a quality officer.

“His wise leadership will be missed. He leaves us with a good foundation to move forward with,” Miller said.

That quality began as soon as Fronebarger graduated from high school and joined Union City Police as a patrol officer.

“I took all the courses I could and was getting certified in one thing or another,” Fronebarger said Wednesday.

It was not long before those endeavors paid off. Fronebarger was promoted to sergeant, a position in which he served for five years. But all that was just the beginning. Fronebarger was hired as police chief in Union City at the ripe old age of 27, making him the youngest police chief in Georgia at that time. It was a position he held for 20 years. Things changed again when he was promoted to become Union City Director of Public Safety, with responsibility for police, fire and jail services, supervising 150 employees.

Fronebarger had served as public safety director for 10 years when he decided to take a leave of absence. His 36 years in Union City came to an end when he learned of the possibility of a fresh challenge in Palmetto. He applied and was hired as the city’s police chief. And that is where he stayed to finish out his career.

“When I first came here there were a lot of challenges. But since that time, and with the help of the mayors and city councils, we’ve made improvements in manpower, salaries and equipment purchases,” Fronebarger said with a smile. “Now we have one of the highest paid police departments in the county. We went from a starting pay (for patrol officers) of $24,500 to where we are now at $36,200.”

On for his reason for retiring today, Fronebarger would only say that it is for personal reasons, adding that it is a decision that has nothing to do with Palmetto.

“I’ve been fortunate to make so many friendships in Palmetto and I’ve really enjoyed working here,” the chief said. “I’ll miss the citizens. They've been so nice and, for the most part, supportive and I really appreciate it.”

As for the next phase of his life, Fronebarger said he expects to keep himself occupied with even more of the many trips he has made to Maine over the past 30 years. Between trips, the motorcycle enthusiast in him will get even more time for the open road.

As for Palmetto and its law enforcement future, Fronebarger has long noted the population growth in and around Palmetto and its close geographic proximity to Atlanta, America’s fastest growing metro area.

“The new chief will have the challenges of continued growth and the crime that comes with it,” he said.

Fronebarger also thought Palmetto would be well-served to develop a community service program for offenders and a reserve force of certified officers. Beyond those, he advocated for establishing a drug task force composed of the four sister cities of south Fulton, Palmetto, Fairburn, Chattahoochee Hill Country and Union City. That need is all the more relevant since the long-established Tri-Cities Narcotics Task Force has disbanded and since drug-related crime stands to increase with the continuing increases in population density.

“The four sister cities could look at a drug task force and other issues like gangs, anything relevant to law enforcement and crime prevention that impacts their residents,” Fronebarger said. “The prime objective would be to create an atmosphere conducive to the wellbeing of all citizens. If they come together, the possibilities for the sister cities will be endless.”

Fronebarger took the time to express his gratitude to former Mayor Clark Boddie for letting him know that the chief’s position in Palmetto had come open more than four years ago. And he thanked current Mayor John Miller and the council for increasing officer’s salary to a level that makes the city competitive with its neighbors.

Palmetto Assistant Police Chief and long-time detective John Cooper will serve as interim chief beginning Sept. 2.

And after Sept. 2, the folks up in Maine’s Booth Bay Harbor should be on the look-out for a laid-back former cop to pull into their scenic hamlet on his motorcycle, smiles and all.

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