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Interim public safety chief tapped in Georgia
Georgia State Patrol patch
ATLANTA - Former Tift County Sheriff Gary Vowell has been tapped to head up the Georgia Department of Public Safety on an interim basis following the resignation last week of former Commissioner Mark McDonough.
McDonough tendered his resignation last Thursday at the behest of Gov. Brian Kemp in the wake of a cheating scandal in the agency’s cadet training program.
Vowell, a career law enforcement official, was approved unanimously Wednesday by the state Board of Public Safety to assume the interim commissioner role. He starts on the job March 1.
“My entire career has been devoted to keeping Georgia families safe and upholding the highest ideals of integrity in our law enforcement community, and I look forward to working in the Kemp administration,” Vowell said in a statement.
The public safety department houses the Georgia State Patrol, the Motor Carrier Compliance Division and the Capitol Police Division.
Vowell was a field training officer and peace officer instructor with the state patrol for two decades before being elected sheriff of Tift County in 1996. He kept that office until 2012 when he decided not to seek re-election.
Kemp touted Vowell’s qualifications Wednesday, calling the former sheriff “a respected and trusted leader within Georgia’s law enforcement community.”
“Given his background, I know that Gary will be able to easily transition in this important role,” Kemp said in a statement.
McDonough’s resignation followed the firing last month of an entire cadet class caught cheating on an online exam required to use the agency’s radar speed detectors.
It also came in the wake of a cyberattack in July that downed the agency’s main computer server for months and a break-in at the state Capitol that left light fixtures and paintings damaged.

A U.S. Marine veteran, McDonough was a state trooper in Blue Ridge before being tapped as the commanding officer of the state patrol. He was picked for the commissioner post by then-Gov. Nathan Deal in 2011.