When remembering his impact as Dawson County Fire and EMS Director, person after person thanked Danny Thompson for his sincere service during the four years he’s led the department.
Colleagues and friends alike gathered in the engine bay of Fire Station 1 this past Tuesday as part of a farewell luncheon for Thompson. Aug. 23 is his last day in the position.
He will be leaving for a battalion chief position with the Roswell Fire Department but will still live in the Dawson area with his family.
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Thompson’s career in public service spans over three decades. In April 2018, Thompson started the director position in Dawson County. Five years prior to being hired for the full-time job, he served as a volunteer firefighter and paramedic in Dawson County.
The announcement of a new interim director was delayed at the Aug. 18 Board of Commissioners meeting. Public Affairs Officer Laura Fulcher clarified that the county manager, David Headley, will select someone prior to Thompson’s departure.
Division Chief of Operations and Training Jason Dooley pointed to Thompson’s range of accomplishments since coming into the role.
“He’s moved our department forward in several areas…Chief Thompson is what we call ‘a firefighter’s fire chief,’” Dooley said. “He looks out for his troops and makes sure that they have all the equipment they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.”
Capt. Randy Edwards, the DCFES volunteer coordinator, praised Thompson for his attention to volunteer firefighters, pointing to the recently-started recruit class as an example.
“We’ve grown the volunteer department during his tenure while he’s been here…and I think it is an added asset to the department and to the county,” Edwards said of the volunteer capabilities.
BOC Chairman Billy Thurmond said that he “realized how difficult the job was that he (Thompson) stepped into” and elaborated that he and the county’s citizens “appreciate all that Thompson has done.”
Fire Marshal Jeff Bailey pointed to the Fire & EMS department’s “great leaps and bounds forward” as the county has continued to likewise grow commercially and residentially, leading to a higher population and call volume.
“Those are all things he’s tried to get ahead of the curve on,” said Bailey, “and that’s what we need to continue to do now– to get ahead of the curve now instead of trying to catch up to it.”
District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines shared that organizations like Fire & EMS “rise and fall on leadership and communications” and said Thompson had modeled that in multiple ways.
Gaines quipped that while some of those decisions have cost “a lot of money,” it’s been “money well spent.”
“You’ve brought us into a realm where we should be able to provide great services, and I appreciate your leadership and everything you’ve done for Dawson County,” Gaines said.
“It's tough to leave this organization,” Thompson said, “but I’d like to think I’ve left it a little better than it was four and a half years ago.”
He pointed to the various improvements that’ve been made because of input and hard work from fellow first responders in the field, and the changes that are still to come, such as the forthcoming radio system upgrade and E-911 center SPLOST projects.
Thompson told his colleagues to remember their shared goals, to take care of their own and to have the courage to do what’s right, “even when it’s not the easiest choice.”
“Don’t be afraid to attend those commission meetings because they all impact you,” Thompson said. “It may not be that you have an agenda item, but every development that comes into this community, impacts you directly. It impacts the service delivery model of public safety–fire, EMS and the law.”
“It’s truly been a privilege and an honor to serve as your chief,” Thompson said. “I love each and every one of you out there.”
“To me, success in any position or job is leaving something better than you found it, and you have done that. So to me, that’s success…and I appreciate it,” said District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett.
She quipped whether Thompson would “miss her questions” from BOC meetings and elaborated that she would miss his sense of humor.
Given the “serious business” that the BOC often contends with, Fausett said Thompson’s readiness to laugh “helps get us through a lot of things.”
“I’m sorry you’re leaving…but I wish you the best in the world,” said Fausett, “because you have really helped Dawson County, so you [should] feel proud for that.”