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CPD Capt. Henry Runyan closing chapter on 30-year career

For Capt. Henry Runyan, community policing can be summarized in one word — helping.

“When I go out on a call, I think to myself, someone’s got a problem, maybe I can help,” explained the 30-year veteran of the Cedartown Police Department.

His way of thinking has earned him the respect of many in the community, as well as admiration from his fellow officers. Runyan’s dedication to the job and his devotion to service above self makes his pending retirement a huge loss to the CPD family and Cedartown as a whole.

“Captain Runyan is the epitome of a true street cop who cares about his community,” City Manager Bill Fann said. “We will miss his smiling face and positive attitude.”

Runyan was honored for his dedication and service to the community during the July meeting of the Cedartown City Commission on July 13. City Commissioner Dale Tuck spoke about his demeanor.

“When Henry Runyan walks in a room, you feel comfort,” Tuck said. “He is the epitome of what the city of Cedartown produces. He raises the bar.”

Runyan has gone from being the youngest officer on the roster to the oldest, or “most experienced” officer on the force. He stepped into his career in law enforcement by happenstance.

“I was working as a salesman at Bruner Oil Company. I worked with a lady who was a relative of the current police chief and she mentioned that there was a job opening with the department. I put my name in, was hired and here I sit,” Runyan said matter-of-factly.

He was hired in the early 1990s. Back then, he explained, equipment was far and few between. Officers supplied their own gun and, according to Runyan, the one he managed to procure was “older than he was.”

Times have changed, and the difference in equipment now versus 30 years ago is like night and day. Though toting a gun comes with the job, Runyan’s equipment of choice during his years of service is one that housed no bullets.

“Mediation is the best thing you’ve got as an officer. Of course, you have to be a people person for that, you can’t talk down to people, you’ve got to listen and you’ve got to be able to handle people that get mad, people that say things that aren’t nice. If you can’t take that, then you don’t need to be a police officer,” Runyan said. “Many times, you can mediate a situation and not have to make an arrest.”

With three decades of policing under his duty belt, Runyan has seen a lot. He’s quick to point out that his moments of lending a hand to someone in need are the memories he will treasure the most.

“I remember there was a couple in town that needed gas money. I just happened to have $20 and I gave it to them and they went on their way. Sometime later, I was in Rome doing some shopping and a man approached me and said, ‘you were the officer that gave us gas money’ and made me take $20 back.”

Another highlight of his career came in 1996, when the Olympic swim team came to Cedartown to train in the city’s pool.

“I had the honor of escorting them from the pool to Cow Bell Farm, where they were staying while in town,” he recalled. “I also remember being downtown when the Olympic torch came through. Someone gave me a commemorative lapel pin while I was directing traffic.”

He’s served his community under the direction of four police chiefs — John Dean, Keith Barber, Henry King and current Chief Jamie Newsome.

Newsome and Assistant Chief Greg Cooper presented Runyan with a handmade wooden swing at the commission meeting with a plaque attached to the back thanking him for his years of dedication to the city.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with many outstanding people over the years, but Henry is among the best of the best,” Newsome stated. “He excels in the qualities that can’t be taught through training — honor, integrity, ethics, and most especially love for others. He will be sorely missed.”

Runyan takes pride in being a part of those administrations and in leaving Cedartown a better place.

“I was part of Operation Street Sweep that rid the city of corner drug dealers. We were very aggressive during that operation. I learned a lot during that time,” Runyan said. “I know I wouldn’t be the same person I am today had I worked anywhere else other than the Cedartown Police Department. I am grateful for those that helped me along the way and gave me the advice of ‘youngun, learn all you can.’”

With his policing days coming to an end — his last official day is July 31 — he is excited for a change of pace.

“Being on my own schedule, being able to do things I couldn’t do before due to work, that’s what I am looking forward to,” said Runyan, who has stepsons and grandchildren that range in age from 25 to 2 years.

Runyan sits back in his chair and takes a moment to reflect on his long career.

“Just the opportunity to help people, I am going to really miss that. But I can still help people even after I retire because of what I learned as my time spent as an officer.”

Cedartown gets clean FY19 audit report

There were days that Cedartown City Commissioner Dale Tuck can remember not knowing where the city would get the money to cover its costs.

Now, she and her fellow commissioners are able to be confident in the city’s financial status as its fiscal year 2019 audit review revealed at the board’s July meeting last Monday.

City Manager Bill Fann provided the city commission with an overview of the clean, unmodified report that included an updated fund balance of $3.34 million.

That’s enough to cover 147 days of operation for the city, well above the industry standard of 90 days, according to Fann.

“That represents nearly five months of revenue for the city,” Fann said. “We have no need to borrow money, and city employees don’t need to worry about furloughs, layoffs or pay cuts.”

The news comes as many cities and counties worry about what effect economic shutdowns because of the COVID-19 pandemic might have on local tax revenue.

The current fund balance, which is used as a rainy-day fund to help governments continue to provide services when revenue does not meet expectations, is a jump from 2010 when the city’s fund balance would cover only two days. In 2011, the city had a negative fund balance.

Commissioners gave praise to City Manager Bill Fann for changing the way the city approached finances.

“It got that scary,” Tuck said. “We always had to borrow money to pay bills. Bill Fann came in and had a vision of where this community could be financially.”

Fann, who has been with the city since 2011, plans to retire in September.

In other news, the city commission unanimously approved the annexation of five lots into the city limits as part of the Philpot Springs subdivision south of downtown.

The request was made by the property owner Jolo Homes, along with Buildmore Enterprise Services, LLC.

A representative from Buildmore told the commissioners that single family homes will be on the small lots and they were requesting annexation in order to provide sewer service.

The five contiguous lots total 1.49 acres and are in the area of Pinecrest Road and Bryant Circle.

The board also unanimously approved beer and wine package licenses for two stores, one at 329 N. Main St. and the other at 844 N. Main St.

Commissioner Jessica Payton discussed being elected as Georgia Municipal Association’s District 1 first vice president during a recent virtual meeting. Payton is line to become president of the district and will serve as a liaison between GMA and municipal officials in GMA’s District 1.

“I’m grateful to be a part of a fantastic and dedicated group of locally elected officials serving the citizens of GMA District 1,” Payton said in a release. “I just really enjoy learning and helping and I’m grateful to be elected to do that.”

Rockmart council creates new position

A new job position was approved by the Rockmart City Council last week with a reliable and familiar person ready to step into a new role.

The board passed an amendment to the 128-year-old city’s charter at its July 14 meeting that creates the new position of chief financial officer, and then approved the appointment of longtime City Clerk Pam Herring to the role.

Both votes were unanimous and mark a slight change in Herring’s duties as she focuses solely on the city’s finances while the regular duties of the city clerk are now the responsibility of Stacey Smith, who most recently served as Rockmart’s director of community development.

Smith’s appointment was also unanimously approved.

Both appointments were adopted with the stipulation that both employees receive specified job descriptions and evaluation lists in the near future.

Herring has served as city clerk since 2001, while Smith has been community development director since 2005.

The changes inside the city administration come as Rockmart starts the new fiscal year. Herring said that she is still waiting on the final bills to be paid for June before submitting the final financial report for FY 2020 to the council to review and prepare for the coming audit.

In other action, the city council approved a $670,000 loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Agency that will allow the city to run new raw water lines in the area of Plum Street, across the field near the former J.L. Lester estate near Church Street, and connect to the lines along West Elm Street near Richardson Field and The Depot events center.

That is just part of a $1.5 million project that will also allow crews to convert areas at the Rockmart Wastewater Treatment Plant into additional digester space to be able to handle more sludge capacity instead of having to haul it off.

An additional $600,000 through an Appalachian Regional Commission grant is waiting to be approved to help with the project. The city would be required to make a match of $230,000 to comply with the grant requirements.

“This would help us provide more than what is needed and allows us to meet and exceed the water needs for the city for many, many years to come,” City Manager Jeff Ellis said.

The loan’s terms would be over a 20-year period, but Ellis recalled the city has had success in repaying loans in fewer years than initially set.

The city council also heard from Slate City Shrine Club representative Harold McDurmon, who asked the council to reconsider banning the group from collecting money from motorists at intersections within the city.

Rockmart put a stop to the practice after complaints about a different group soliciting people at intersections led to a review of the state law and it was discovered such activity is not permitted on state highways.

McDurmon said they have liability insurance on each member that is out at the donation spots and they never are aggressive toward anyone to get them to give money to help the Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Mayor Sherman Ross said he appreciates all of the work the Shriners do to help children, but it is a matter of complying with state law. City Attorney Mike McRae said there could be an ordinance to allow solicitation on a locally-owned public street, but there would still be liability issues for the city.