Marietta native Stoney Bowles travelled a long way to be a “2017 Faces of Newton County” honoree. Those travels took him into burning buildings and down dark, smoky hallways as a firefighter with the Cobb County Fire Department and then east on Interstate 20 to become the Chief of the City of Covington Fire Department (CFD).
After retiring with 30 years of service with Cobb, Bowles started as the CFD chief March 2, 2015. He said coming in, he did not know what to expect.
“I thought all of the really good firefighters took off to DeKalb, Gwinnett, Atlanta, Cobb. I thought they all went to the big departments,” he said. “I had no idea when I came out here that the Covington Fire Department has firefighters and officers that would be successful in any department.
“I did not know that smaller departments had that quality of people and I’ve been blown away by it.”
As the chief of a department, Bowles has responsibility for every aspect of the operation. That is different from his previous responsibilities as a battalion chief with Cobb.
“One of the things I look at today is, then, I was able to assist one shift, one battalion. Today, I’m able to work for all levels of the department, whether it be the fire marshal’s office, education or operations,” he said.
Chief Bowles says he believes in servant leadership.
“You will never hear me say that anybody works for me,” he said. “We work for the city, we work our citizens, and probably most importantly, we work for the people at our house.
“I work for those guys. They don’t work for me. That’s not false humility. I believe that 100 percent. And I enjoy getting to work for them.”
Chief Bowles is proud of his fire department.
“We’ve got a great, two station department. I’ve said it to all three shifts, our goal is to be the best two station department in America,” he said, “We don’t compare ourselves to other two station departments. We only compare ourselves to much bigger departments.”
Bowles said last year, the city got its first red fire truck. On the rear two doors, it say’s “The Pride of Covington”. The chief said he stole the quote from another fire truck he had seen.
“I felt like that was a two-way message. One, it was a message to the people we respond to, that we are the pride of Covington,” he said. “The other is a message to us, to remind us that we need to be the pride of Covington, so we need to give that superior customer service no matter.
“Everybody we respond to is our mother, is our father. We need to treat them like that and treat them the way we want people to treat our own parents.”
Chief Bowles married his Osborne High School sweetheart in 1983. He and his wife have two adult children, a son who is 32 and a daughter who is 30. They are hoping for grandchildren.
Prior to coming to Covington, is addition to his job as a firefighter, the chief was an assistant basketball coach at Altoona High School. He professes to a love of basketball, coaching kids and woodworking.
And even though he no longer rides a fire truck, Chief Bowles is still a fireman at heart.
And he has developed an affection for his new city.
“I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been blessed to be able to come to a place like this,” he said. “We’ve got a great community here and great support. It’s been nice.”