COVINGTON, Ga. — The city’s longtime former E-911 director is now a leader of the state government’s response to future natural and manmade disasters.
Mike Smith recently was named as chief of staff for the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security (GEMA/HS) agency.
Gov. Brian Kemp announced his appointment of Smith as he named Georgia State Patrol Capt. Chris Stallings as the agency’s new director Sept. 1.
Smith left his role as deputy director of the Georgia Emergency Communications Authority to serve in his new job. He said he was “humbled that I was even considered.”
“It wasn’t something I was looking for,” Smith said.
Kemp said during a Sept. 1 press conference that as Stallings “transitions into this new role, he’ll need a strong partner at his side to lead this agency and tackle the challenges ahead.”
“Mike Smith will bring years of public safety experience from his time as a police officer in Covington and Newton County and extensive work in emergency communications,” Kemp said.
“I know that Chris and Mike will ensure a smooth — but quick — transition. They will conduct business with the professionalism and integrity that citizens want and deserve."
Smith said his decades of work in law enforcement and emergency response in Newton County prepared him for the job in a number of ways.
His varied career includes working as Covington-Newton County 911 director for 17 years, from 2001 to 2019.
He also worked as a commander with East Metro Drug Enforcement task force from 1995 to 1998; a deputy and lieutenant with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office from 1984 to 1995; and as an officer with the Covington Police Department, where he began his career as a dispatcher in 1982.
Smith said his experience with 911 and other agencies allowed him to see the impact of his work firsthand. It also showed him how to prepare for major emergency situations, he said.
He also learned the “politics” of the position — teaching him to make contacts that would be vital to doing his job well, he said.
Smith, 57, said he was “excited” to be coming into an agency whose employees work so well together.
According to its website, GEMA/HS coordinates the state’s preparedness, response and recovery efforts in times of disasters.
It also works with local, state and federal governments, in partnership with the private sector and faith-based community, to prevent and respond to natural and manmade emergencies.
In addition, GEMA/HS employees are on 24-hour call statewide to assist local authorities when disaster strikes.
Smith said Stallings’ predecessor, Homer Bryson, brought the agency “years ahead of where it was” when he took over in 2016.
“We both have big shoes to fill,” Smith said.
Bryson was credited with improving the agency’s organization and communication with other state and local emergency agencies during his four years in the post.