At a farewell party at Fire Station No. 1 on Friday, Lanier Swafford celebrated over 25 years of serving in the Dawson County emergency services department, most recently as fire chief and emergency services director.
Surrounded by colleagues, friends and family, Swafford was presented with a fire axe commemorating his many years of dedicated service during the celebration May 4.
At 5 p.m., Dawson County E911 personnel broadcast a non-emergency message in honor of Swafford’s service.
“Today Chief Lanier Swafford retires from full time services as Chief of Dawson County Emergency Services,” the message said. “On behalf of all the men and women of Dawson County, we would like to thank him for his years of selfless service to Dawson County. We also wish him the best in his future endeavors. Car 1 is now out of service, ending tour of duty.”
The sentiment was reflected all across the county on Friday, and many citizens, coworkers, friends and family of Swafford took to Facebook, posting well wishes and words of encouragement.
Fire Battalion Chief Jason Dooley coined a farewell to his chief.
“He is a firefighter’s fire chief that puts his men and women first.” he wrote. “His leadership and friendship will be missed at DCES headquarters. However, his legacy will live on and I have no doubt that he will go great things wherever he decides to go.”
Part-time firefighter and paramedic Brandon Carey said that Swafford made him believe in himself.
“Chief Swafford never told us how to lead, he showed us,” Carey wrote. “Chief Swafford lifted his men and women up, and put them before himself, every time. You always saw him doing it. He would never have to tell you he was doing it. If you were lucky enough, like me, you served alongside Chief. We felt protected, proud, and trusted that he would be there.”
Former Emergency Services Director and current Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said on Tuesday that Swafford has “done an outstanding job serving the citizens of Dawson County over the past 25 plus years.”
“His experience and dedication will truly be missed,” Thurmond said.
Bearden Funeral Home owner and director Ted Bearden has known Swafford his whole life.
“He was on the staff since the day I bought the funeral home and is still on the staff,” Bearden said Tuesday. “I don’t know of anybody I could ever name who is more dedicated to helping his fellow man than (Swafford.) He always thinks of others before himself and does every job with dignity and class. I think it’s a great loss for the county.”
Swafford addressed the outpour of affection in a post of his own.
“To each of you who have called, spoke, prayed, posted or took time out of your busy day Friday to come by the station-thank you. You will never know what your friendship and support means to me,” Swafford wrote. “Nothing I have ever accomplished would have been possible without the help and direction of God first and foremost, my family, friends and the team at Dawson County Emergency Services.
“And now...as we move into the future, an earlier post mentioned my frequent use of Lombardi's quotes. One of my favorites is this: "The only place that success comes before work - hard work - is in the dictionary." The last 25 years have been some of the best of my life and as I look back and realize that is well over half my life - I do not regret one minute of it. It's time to go to work!”
Swafford began his career as a volunteer firefighter with Dawson County in 1989. He occupied many roles in the fire department including working as an EMT, paramedic, EMS division chief, fire chief, deputy chief and chief of emergency services until he took over the role of emergency services director from Thurmond in 2015.
He also serves as deputy coroner and worked as an embalmer at Bearden Funeral Home.
A nationally certified firefighter, fire inspector, instructor and paramedic, he holds multiple certifications and degrees including a bachelor’s degree in fire science administration. He was president of the Georgia State Firefighters Association and chairman of the Georgia Firefighters Standards and Training Council, as appointed by the speaker of the House, and is recognized as a Professional Emergency Manager by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
He is married to Amy and the pair has two sons, Brendan and Bailey. They reside in Dawsonville and attend Bethel Baptist Church, where Swafford is a deacon.
Swafford said he looks forward to continuing to aid Dawson County as a volunteer firefighter.