Dawson County Fire Chief Lanier Swafford was recently elected president of the Georgia State Firefighter's Association.
An installation ceremony was held Saturday night at the group's annual banquet in Dalton.
"I'm very humbled and honored at the confidence the membership has to put me in this position," Swafford said.
Established in 1952, the Georgia State Firefighter's Association serves more than 5,000 members and provides them with an active network and resources for information, communication and representation on a state and national level.
"Representing that many members carries a lot of responsibility, and that's not something I take lightly," he said. "We owe them and have a duty to represent them as firefighters and a responsibility to the profession."
Swafford joined the volunteer organization nearly 15 years ago to become involved and interact with fire service personnel from across the state. He also wanted to make a difference.
"It offers such a wide opportunity for impact, and it seemed like a great opportunity for me," he said.
Swafford started his career in the fire service in 1989 as a volunteer firefighter and climbed the ranks. He was named chief in 2007.
As president, Swafford will chair the group's seven-member board of directors, which in one of its first orders of business voted Saturday to enter into an agreement with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia to oversee the group's business operations and conference management.
According to Swafford, the nonprofit group, like so many others, dealt with economic strains in the last few years.
"Our association faced some tough economic times, and with our CEO retiring after 40 years, the association is at a critical crossroads," he said. "We're evaluating where we are, where we're going and if we're on the right track."
Moving forward , Swafford said the operational changes will allow a focus on initiatives such as increasing visibility and membership, in addition to restoring "some of our membership programs we had to suspend" due to the economy.
"It's going to be a busy and exciting time for me to be president," Swafford said.
Billy Thurmond, director of Dawson County Emergency Services, said he is proud "to have one of our own" elected to such a prestigious position.
"Lanier will bring leadership and vision to the association," he said. "He has worked extremely hard to make improvements here in the county and will take that same passion to the state. The firefighters across this state will now see the determination and commitment to excellence that Dawson County has seen over the past 20 plus years of service that Lanier has given."
Swafford said: "As great an honor as this is to me, it'll never be a higher honor than the privilege I have of serving the people of Dawson County."