Whether it’s serving Richmond Hill as chief of police, restoring classic cars as president of the Over the Hill Gang or working on ways to keep local youth out of trouble as chairman of Bryan County Family Connection, one thing is for sure – Billy Reynolds seems passionate about his work.
Reynolds has been with the RHPD since 1983. In 1985, at the tender age of 25, he became the youngest police chief in the state. He has seen many changes in his department through the years. Throughout it all and under his watchful eye, Reynolds proudly said the city continues to be a safe place in comparison to most other communities.
"Billy Reynolds is a tremendous help to me and an asset to the city of Richmond Hill," Mayor Richard Davis said. "That’s one department I don’t have to worry about or micromanage and I truly appreciate that. We’re surrounded by a lot of different crime elements, but I think criminals know that they’ll get caught if they commit crimes here. Billy’s leadership is one of the main reasons we can feel comfortable here and sleep well at night."
Reynolds attributes much of this to his aggressive approach to covering the city.
"I encourage my guys to do a lot of traffic," he said. "We have a designated traffic unit and I encourage them to make contact with the public. Whether they issue citations or warnings is entirely up to them, but that keeps a police officer visible on US 17 and GA 144 everyday. Whenever you come into the city, you’re going to see blue lights somewhere, and visibility is major role in deterring crime."
RHPD police reports do reveal a number of thefts, burglaries, armed robberies, vandalism, purse snatching and entering autos, but Reynolds said "the more serious crimes are very low. Since I’ve been here, there’s been only one homicide, and it was solved." He also said he is seeing more and more domestic violence cases in the city.
"I’m pretty happy with the current crime stats," Reynolds said. "I don’t see where we’ve had a big increase in any particular area over the years. We don’t take anything for granted though and we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve. We just joined forces with the Chatham Narcotics Team, which has broadened the department’s resources in the area of narcotics and we’re currently switching to an 800 megahertz communication system to put us in direct contact with Chatham, Bulloch, Effingham and Glynn counties."
Reynolds said the department has changed with the times. When he started, RHPD employed four officers and had a budget of $80,000. Today, there are 28 officers with a budget of $2 million. Reynolds said his early days as chief entailed patrolling but became more administrative in the late 1980s.
"We knew with the growth that was coming, we needed to get computerized and implement more policies," Reynolds said. "That changed my job a bit. Nowadays, we’re probably ahead of a lot of agencies in technology and other aspects. Each officer is equipped with computer access and video equipment in their vehicle, tazers and the best weaponry. In the mid-90s, we became state certified. The policies and procedures that come with that have given us a sort of road map to reaching many of our goals."
When Reynolds is not at the station, you’ll probably find him working on one of his classic cars.
Not only does he avidly pursue the hobby of purchasing rundown vintage roadsters and returning them to their previous glory, he has created a local organization which has brought together many other fellow Richmond Hill auto enthusiasts.
As president of Over the Hill Gang, Reynolds has turned his hobby into a venture that has generated thousands of dollars for local charities such as the Bryan County Children’s Fund and the American Legion fund for families of Iraqi War veterans.
"In 2000, I purchased my first muscle car in many years," he said. "I told my partner ‘when I get through with this car, I’m going to try to get a local cruise-in started.’ I did just that and 45 cars showed up. We’ve been going strong ever since."
Reynolds soon enlisted all the local classic car owners he knew of to join the group. This includes the likes of Richmond Hill residents Danny Bryant, Probate Judge Sam Davis, city P&Z Director Steve Scholar and his son – RHHS assistant football coach Chris Scholar, Dennis Clark and land developer Charlie Stafford.
The group, still with their inaugural president – Reynolds − continues to conduct a cruise-in each month and hold a big fundraiser each year in the form of a car show at the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival. Reynolds said the event has drawn hundreds of cars and is growing each year.
Reynolds encourages every classic car enthusiast in the area to join the group. Last year, the group met on the fourth Saturday in each month at the parking lot in front of the 606 Café and Beijing Chinese restaurant. They have yet to decide if the location and dates will remain the same for 2008. For more information on Over the Hill Gang, call 713-5989 or log onto www.over-the-hill-gang.com.
Beyond that, Reynolds holds yet another executive duty in the form of Chairman of the group Bryan County Family Connection. Reynolds said he took a strong interest in this group while jointly developing the Bryan County Juvenile Diversion Program. The program has reportedly spurred other counties throughout the state to develop similar programs and has inspired Reynolds to look for other ways in which to help the youth in his community, he said.