Justin Gaines took the helm as the new director of public safety for the University of North Georgia (UNG) in a ceremony held today at the university's Dahlonega Campus. Gaines was sworn in by Bruce Holmes, director of security for the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents.
The ceremony was attended by UNG President Dr. Bonita Jacobs, former UNG Police Chief Mike Stapleton, UNG Deputy Police Chief Clifford Poole, and law enforcement personnel from UNG, Lumpkin County and surrounding areas. Gaines' father and university officials and staff also attended the ceremony. Stapleton retired in November, and Poole served as interim police chief since then.
"We are glad you are here and are proud to make you a part of UNG," Jacobs said in welcoming Gaines. "We are grateful for the legacy left by Mike Stapleton and Clifford Poole, and we know you will build upon it."
After the ceremony, attendees gathered to congratulate Gaines, many to introduce themselves and help Gaines familiarize himself with their positions and departments.
"We are delighted to have Justin Gaines join our team at the University of North Georgia," said Mac McConnell, UNG's senior vice president for business and finance. "He will lead our own group of highly trained and qualified officers, dispatchers and staff in a highly effective manner. His expertise in emergency preparedness, communication protocol and residential and off-campus environments will provide immediate value for our campuses."
Gaines previously served as associate director of emergency preparedness at Georgia College & State University (GCSU). In that role, Gaines managed and directed a comprehensive emergency preparedness and occupational safety program.
"I want to sincerely thank all of your for observing this occasion," Gaines said. "I made it a point to have a formal swearing-in, to let you all know how serious I am in dedicating myself to this pledge. I look forward to building relationships with everyone at UNG and in having this university become home to me and my family."
While at GCSU, Gaines worked to expand the school's emergency communications and notifications systems, including securing grants and partnerships to purchase new equipment, and commanded emergency response. At UNG, Gaines wants to stress preparedness and awareness with everyone in the university community.
"My first course in this position will be to listen," Gaines said. "I want to learn about the people and programs around me, including their backgrounds, and to continue building upon the strong team and foundation created by Chief Mike Stapleton."
Gaines, who was hired by GCSU as a police officer in 2005, earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a Master of Public Administration from GCSU. He also completed Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Basic Mandate at the Middle Georgia Police Academy in Macon, Ga. Gaines has specialized training in many areas, including how to respond to various emergency situations, and is a trained emergency medical responder.
"We want to focus on emergency preparedness with training for our faculty, staff and students," Gaines said. "Our mission is to protect and serve, but also to educate. Public safety is everyone's responsibility, and we can achieve a greater level of safety by providing training to everyone who is on our campuses regularly."