The Richmond Hill Police Department is in the process of some major administrative changes, spurred by the retirement of assistant chief Major Gary Lee.
Captain Mike Albritton, who headed up the Criminal Investigations Division, is currently transitioning into the role of assistant chief and is slated to replace Lee on May 1. John Barry, who just retired from over 13 years as a GBI agent, just replaced Albritton as head of the Criminal Investigation Division.
"This is definitely the most rational and beneficial change we could make within the department," Chief Billy Reynolds said. "Honestly, I don’t know of anything right now that we couldn’t handle with the people I have in place."
Reynolds said he has known Lee "since I was a teenager," and is honored to have worked with him for the last 15 years.
"Gary will surely be missed, but this opens the door for several others to move up and to bring one in from the GBI. It’s exciting to bring that type of talent to the PD," Reynolds said. "We brought John in because of his credentials and what he can bring to our department. I think he will be a major asset for us."
Lee, 65, has been in law enforcement for 30 years, having been with the Bryan County Sheriff’s Department prior to the RHPD. He said he is leaving due to health reasons and plans to spend more time with his family and his hobby of working on classic cars.
"I enjoy helping people, and I’ve had a great career," Lee said.A luncheon was recently held in Lee’s honor at J.F. Gregory Park, which was attended by many of his friends and colleagues.
"He’s the one, when the policemen come on, they look to and say ‘that’s what I want to be.’ He’s been a mentor to all the officers in the city," said Richmond Hill City Councilman and Mayor Pro-tem Floyd Hilliard. Mayor Richard Davis said Lee "has been an effective part of making Richmond Hill a safe place to live," while County Administrator Phil Jones called Lee "a mild mannered man and a good, sound police officer."
RHPD court clerk Lisa Long, who has worked with Lee for 10 years, said she will miss him most.
"He’s a wonderful person to work for," Long said. "He’s always a gentleman and has a great sense of humor. And, in the business we’re in, you need a good sense of humor. His door was always open and no problem was too big or too small for him."
"I’m stepping in to a big pair of shoes, and it’s going to take a lot to fill them," Albritton said.
Albritton has been with the department for more than 14 years. He said Barry, who has been the GBI agent assigned to Bryan County since 1995, will do great as the new head of CID.
"John Barry was my mentor in investigations," Albritton said. "He worked with me when I first got into this field and taught me a lot."
Detective Dana Strickland will continue to work under Albritton as he switches to patrol. In his place in CID will be K-9 officer Cpl. Doug Sahlberg. Barry said K-9 Echo will remain with Sahlberg in the transition because the K-9 program is now under CID.
"This will allow us to enhance criminal investigations because now we have that asset immediately at hand," Barry said. "So far, Doug has already impressed me as an investigator, and he’ll get plenty of opportunity for advanced training."