Chapter History – Phase I

By: Barry Woodward, Senior Member

Over the years, the Georgia Chapter of A.P.C.O. has enjoyed enormous growth in its membership, and it is because of you, the members, that have made that happen. It didn’t just happen by accident, and here is a little history lesson to give you a perspective of how we got here. To quote retired DeKalb County Police Chief Bobby Burgess “In order to know where you are going, you must know where you have been.” This is a very true statement.

Over the years, the older records of the Georgia Chapter of A.P.C.O. have been lost, destroyed, or used for other purposes, so we have very little record of the Chapter before 1984. I will give you a general description of how we got here from word of mouth, first hand experience, and “war stories.” This phase will take you from near the beginning to the 1990’s, The next phase, in the Spring Informer will go from 1990 to present day.

The Associated POLICE Communications Officers, Inc. chartered the Georgia Chapter of A.P.C.O. on December 15, 1976. Prior to that, there were some members who belonged to National A.P.C.O. as far back as 1970. Georgia had a loosely formed Chapter and the meetings were not organized very well, and were basically lunch meetings and get togethers. Georgia put together a formal Conference in the spring of 1977, and in that a number of members, primarily from the State of Georgia’s D.O.A.S. Division were in attendance. Very few local agencies participated during these years. During this meeting, I was the State of Georgia’s first “operator member” classification, but my agency did not support the paying of dues at the time, and I let it lapse. Looking back on that was a poor decision, but things happen for a reason.

In 1981, The Georgia Chapter hosted its first National Conference in Atlanta. It was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, which at the time was a premier facility in the Downtown Atlanta. This was also Elaine Sexton’s first venture into this thing called A.P.C.O. as a small town girl from Gainesville, GA. Get her to tell you about her experiences at this Conference in the “big city”. It was also my first taste in being a presenter at a large conference. I say large because at that time, National only had about 2500 members, and only about 400 showed up at the Conference, but it was successful because there were a few vendors, some presentations, and business conducted. (look at them now). Again, the State of Georgia D.O.A.S. Division had the most members, and Public Safety still was not really represented but by a few members.

Around 1983, and after National had changed it’s name from Police to Public Safety, now known as the Associated Public Safety Communications Officers, Inc., the Georgia Chapter began to see a lot of interest from local Public Safety agencies as the automation age began to emerge in total, having floundered for years. A Chapter Conference was held in 1983 in Stone Mountain Park at the Stone Mountain Inn, which featured a show of Mobile Command Posts. At this time, the Georgia State Patrol, DeKalb County, and a couple of others only owned MCP’s. Now, most everyone has one. A decision was made at this meeting to expand the membership of the Chapter and started a blitz to the local agencies to come to a Conference planned in the fall of 1984 in Savannah, Georgia. The Conference was well attended, but Public Safety still lacked the attendance. Myself, Carolyn Hunter, Elaine Sexton, Jim Newkirk, and a couple of others were the lone Public Safety representatives, the D.OA.S. representatives included Richard Roley, Bob Simpson, George Christenberry, and others. George Murray represented the Georgia State Patrol. The main topic of the Conference was Emergency Operation Centers, and the response of the Amateur Radio Community in times of disaster. Known as RACES back then, it has evolved to what ARES is today.

The meetings up until 1985 included an opening breakfast meeting, which, after some discussion and lack of attendance at these meetings, were changed to opening lunch meetings. This drew a lot more members and prospective members. Also about this time we started to go to the coast for our spring meetings, usually held in May or June were members could bring their families. This started in Jekyll Island, and now is at St. Simons. The fall meetings were held in various locations through out the state. There are a lot of stories on how a group from this Chapter found the coast locations in Jekyll Island, but there is no room here to tell all of them. Needless to say, our ventures then paved the way for where we are now.

The Chapter went through a lot of growing pains from 1986 until 1990 were there challenges to Constitutions and By-Laws, challenges over the control of the Chapter as Public Safety began to take a more active and involved roll, and wanted to be more active in the Chapter operations and activities. Some meetings the Chapter would look more like a political convention that what it’s intended purpose was for. However, the Georgia Chapter was to embark on one of the most memorable Gulf Coast Regional Conferences ever-held anywhere in 1987.

The 1987 Gulf Coast Regional Conference for A.P.C.O. was held in May at the Presidential Hotel in DeKalb County. If you are familiar with the “spaghetti junction” intersection in North DeKalb, that is where the hotel was. It was a round building with about 250 rooms, and lots of exhibit space. We had over 300 attendees, 100 vendors, and some very, very good classroom education. We also had a “train ride” on the New Georgia Railroad that no one who attended that Conference would soon forget. This was our only time we hosted this Conference, and back then, you had little or no support from the National group. You were basically on your own, and that has certainly changed over the years as how these conferences have been handled. But the Georgia Chapter pulled it off, and all who attended discusses that particular Conference to this day, very favorably.

1987 also gave the Chapter an opportunity to put in a bid to National to bring the National Conference to Atlanta in 1990. In order to do this, the Chapter had to put on a presentation and bid against other cities in front of the National Board of Officers and the National Executive Committee at the National Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The Committee assigned to do this venture decided to put on it’s “best southern charm” and had Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara make the presentation to the Executive Committee, complete with Southern Charm and Gifts. Believe it or not, we did not get the bid, only because the Executive Committee said that they had been to Atlanta before and never to Boston, Mass., and the bid went to Boston. This was the beginning of the changes that were made to look more at locations based on fiscal response rather than popularity. However, this put Georgia forever on the map as the previous year, the National Board of Officers included a Sergeant from the Georgia State Patrol as a National Board Officer, and to this date, the only President 4 years later from the State of Georgia.

This is Phase I of the Chapter History lesson. In the next phase, I will take you through the 1990’s to present day. The Early 1990’s started bringing in members who are in leadership positions today within the Chapter.