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Community fire department founders honored
ES Banquet pic 1
George Pugh, right, who served as chief of the Liberty Fire Department was honored for his leadership and dedication with a Lifetime Achievement Award Dec. 2. Dawson County Emergency Services Chief Lanier Swafford presented the award. - photo by Photo/Michele Hester

Putting their lives on the line on a daily basis for the welfare of Dawson County residents and visitors, the men and women of Dawson County Emergency Services were recognized last week with merit and service pins during the department’s annual banquet at Dawson County High School Dec. 2.


In an all too often thankless job, aside from the reward of knowing they saved a life or kept a home from burning to the ground, emergency services personnel, both paid and volunteer, were thanked for their service to Dawson County and for the lives they saved in the last year.


In a new tradition, the banquet also paid homage to four men who laid the foundations for the success of Dawson County Emergency Services of today with Lifetime Achievement Awards.


“Many men and women have toiled, sacrificed, labored and dedicated many hours to make what we have today a reality,” said Chief of Emergency Services Lanier Swafford, naming C. Lee Foote, Elton Stowers, George Pugh and Randell Townley as the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award recipients.


“This year’s recipients all share a common trait. They were here when it all started in 1975, shoot some were even here before them, but they all contributed and served this county and the communities they love and call home,” Swafford said.


Foote became involved in the Juno Fire Department at its initial meeting held in Juno Baptist Church and remained active until his retirement in 1998 when he was well in his 80s, when the department retired his number 245. 


“Throughout his career he worked to improve fire protection in the northern end of the county. He took great pride in his department,” Swafford said.


Pride in the department reflected as each recipient was introduced.


“Elton Stowers and his lineage are named synonymous with emergency services in Dawson County,” Swafford said, paying tribute to the native and lifelong Dawson County resident, who served for over 30 years. 


“Although he passed away on June 16, 2005, his legacy and work lives on today,” said Swafford, who presented the award to Stowers’ wife Mildred.


Like Stowers, who enlisted his family’s help over the years, recipient George Pugh, former chief of the Liberty Fire Department, with the help of his son, brothers, nephews and fellow members of the Liberty community made Station 2 the county’s leading station in volunteers, finances and ability, Swafford said.


“George Pugh’s leadership and dedication throughout the early years has earned him a spot as a 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award winner,” Swafford said.


Also involved in developing the county’s first stations was recipient Randell Townley, who was instrumental in establishing the community departments at Kilough, Juno and Liberty and served as Fire Chief for several years in the city of Dawsonville or Dawson County Station 1.


The Dawson County native worked as an EMT and volunteer while serving as a teacher and coach in the Dawson County School System and later as superintendent of schools. Following his term as superintendent, Townley returned to EMS, where he remained until his retirement from Dawson County Public Safety in 1998, at which time his radio number 101 was retired from service. 


Townley continues to directly impact Dawson County Emergency Services from his seat on the Region II EMS Advisory Council, to his seat on the board of SafeKids for Georgia, his countless contributions in the area of child passenger seat safety, to his current position of coordinator for the Rural Road Initiative to improve driver safety and awareness, according to Swafford.


“I’m proud to say since we began our child safety seat campaign, we have not had one child death in an automobile accident in Dawson County,” said Swafford, honoring his mentor, coach, friend and co-worker.


Accepting the award, Townley, almost in tears, thanked the department and his family who stood behind and supported him as he made Dawson County a safer place to live.