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Departures of multiple Dawson County Fire & EMS leaders cause public alarm
DCFES headquarters
Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services headquarters, also known as Station 1, is located at 393 Memory Lane in Dawsonville.

Note: This article has been updated. 

Multiple command staff for Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services have left or will leave their leadership roles in the near future, according to news that broke over the weekend. 

The realization concerned numerous area residents, many of whom commented on the staffing changes in local Facebook groups. 

This story continues below.

This leadership turnover comes during a time of continued growth in the county. 

Lt. Chris Archer with the fire marshal’s office was the latest to leave, according to a DCFES Facebook post. 

Archer’s resignation letter, dated Sept. 13, stated that his last day would be Sept. 30. 

He has been with the office since 2005, has spent most of his time working there as an inspector and investigator, the post stated. 

Fire Marshal Jeff Bailey said that Archer “has had a tremendous impact on the safety of the citizens and visitors to Dawson County” while executing his duties as the deputy fire marshal. 

“Chris will surely be missed and will undoubtedly be a great asset to the Roswell Fire [Department],” Bailey added.

Former DCFES Fire Chief Danny Thompson, who left at the end of August to take a battalion chief job in Roswell, also commented on the post. 

“His fingerprint will remain in this community many years after he is gone,” Thompson said, later adding that he “looks forward” to seeing Archer soon as a colleague in Roswell. 

On Oct. 10, Chief Bailey confirmed that he is looking to retire in the near future.

“In light of current staffing challenges, I told them (the county) that I’m willing to stay on until a suitable replacement is located,” Bailey told DCN. 

Veteran firefighter Jason Dooley, who served as DCFES’s Operations/Training Division Chief and most recently as interim emergency management director, is also stepping down.

“As of Oct. 14, 2022, I will no longer be serving in [my] capacity as Division Chief of Operations/Training or EMA Director,” Dooley’s entire letter stated. 

EMS Division Chief Robby Lee has decided to transition from a full to part-time position and is still on staff with DCFES, said Public Affairs Officer Laura Fulcher. 

In an emailed reply, county manager David Headley assured Dawson County citizens that the command staff departures “leaves no voids in our commitment to the level of service citizens are accustomed to.”

“It is not unusual that a change of guard results in others being recruited elsewhere or some choosing to leave or retire,” Headley said. “We have a tremendously talented group of men and women in our Emergency Services department who are dedicated, willing and able to step up and carry on.” 

Headley pointed to the turnover in first responder staffing being not just a Dawson County problem, but also a state and nationwide problem, too, and “certainly one that our neighboring counties also face.”

The county manager called the job market intense and competitive between Dawson and surrounding counties, a sentiment previously shared by Thompson and the new fire chief, Troy Leist. 

Headley elaborated that difficult economic times, given inflation, also plays a role in retaining solid staffing. 

“One fellow county administrator I recently spoke with faces the same challenges, and he said he would like to orchestrate a regional team to look closer at how we can work collectively to improve on our mutual aid programs,” Headley said. “I, too, believe this is a good idea.”

The county manager pointed to the Dawson County Board of Commissioners going “above and beyond” by providing DCFES with salary increases, equipment and unwavering support “that should be commended.”

Leist’s resume shows that he completed certifications in firefighting and vehicle operation; fire investigation; hazardous materials; and ones for being a safety, strike team and fire officer.

He has received specialized training in fire investigations, peace officer standards and training and emergency medical technician 1A-D. 

Leist is in the process of getting parts of his certifications updated after having relocated to Georgia, he and Public Affairs Officer Laura Fulcher said during an interview during the chief’s first week.

Fulcher clarified then that the emergency management certification wasn’t something Leist would’ve come into the job with. 

Headley elaborated that Fire Chief Troy Leist’s past proven leadership within multiple emergency services disciplines “will bring a level of professionalism, diversity, fresh ideas and knowledge to the county.”

“This is an exciting time. I am enthusiastic about this opportunity,” said Headley, “and in keeping with Dawson County tradition, the county and its Emergency Services staff will continue to do an excellent job.”