Flowery Branch High intern Grace Slayton contributed to this interview
Meet Chief Jay Parrish! Jay is a lifelong Hall County resident, graduated from North Hall High School and attended North Georgia College. Jay, has been a part of the City of Gainesville Police Department for 19 years and was named chief earlier this year.
“My wife, Katy and I have two boys, 14 and 9; one is at North Hall Middle, and the other one’s at Wauka Mountain,” he said. “I left right out of high school, I graduated on a Thursday, and I went to Parris Island that Sunday, for the Marines…I started the hiring process here at the police department the last month of my senior year of college.”
We want to thank Jay for recently spending time with us and telling us more about his life and love of Hall County.
Question: From when you started to now, how do you think the role of a police officer has changed?
Answer: “It’s changed significantly. Even if you take technology out of it, one of the bigger roles is community connections. To be an effective police officer today, you have to be able to connect with the community, and build those relationships. You get your authority from the power the community gives you. If the community says you’re not going to rule over me, then it’s anarchy and you’re not going to be able to rule over them.
“Since 2013, there’s been a lot of change in law enforcement in build those community connections. That’s something that’s changed a lot, since I have been policing. You may have had community connections, but it wasn’t everybody’s job. It was one sector of the police department.
“Of course, technology has changed all kinds of things, like the way our cars look. We didn’t have computers in our cars, radio was the most significant thing you had. We hand wrote all of our reports. Now, if I were to get in a police car, it’s like the cockpit of a jet. There’s computers everywhere, and cameras. It’s just so advanced. We would have to do reports, and come back by the police department at some point to get them corrected. Now it’s all done electronically. An officer goes out into the field and the report is electronically submitted through the chain of command. So all that has definitely changed to make it easier and better.
“Social media has also changed everything. How we connect, when we connect, who we connect with. How we talk to the press is done through social media, as well…We have a team, that is charge of our social media presence. It comes back to community connections, because in the end of the day, people will look and think, ‘Oh, that’s just a cop’ but we’re all individuals, we’re one big family, and we have a personality. We want to share that, and social media has given us the ability to share it.”
Q: What inspired or led you to your current career?
A: “I’ve always been a rule follower, and wanted to hold people accountable. I think society is better when everyone follows the rules, whether they agree with them or not. If you want something changed, then work to change it, but you can’t just disobey the rules. A lot of times in law enforcement, we’ll say it’s a calling. I think God made our DNA to make us shepherds of the flock, so that’s what we do.”
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Hall County?
A: “I don’t eat out much, I usually bring my lunch. I’m picky about my diet. I do eat at Mellow Mushroom a lot though, so I guess I’ll go with that.”
Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve met in Hall County?
A: “Adam Sandler. When I got to work his security detail, he was very humble and down to earth. He carried on conversation, and I’ve always loved him as a comedian. When he filmed here I got to meet him and hang out with him.”
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
A: “I would go back to St. Martin. We vacationed there four or five years ago, and it was just so beautiful. The people are nice, and I loved it. It was so relaxing, and it’s not too commercialized. The beaches aren’t crowded at all, and watching the jets land was nuts.”
Q: What was the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
A: “‘E.T.’ I went with my family, and I remember not understanding why he had to go home.”
Q: What advice would you give a crowd of people?
A: “Life’s too short to stay angry. Find something you love doing, and you’ll never have to work. Life’s too short to hate your job. There’s plenty of jobs out there. You should enjoy work. It should give you self-fulfillment, as well as you should be giving back. I see too many people that dread going to work, and hate their job. That’s not how it should be.”
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
A: “To hike the entire Appalachian Trail.”
Q: What are three bands you would like to see (dead or alive)?
A: “If you looked at my playlist, it’s everything from gospel to Christian to heavy metal, because of when I grew up. I would love to see Guns N’ Roses, Zac Brown Band, and The Eagles.”
Q: What local businesses make you the most nostalgic about Hall County?
A: “Green’s Grocery, because it’s been here my whole life. The Cake Box, because my dad would always take me by the Cake Box in the morning and I would get cupcakes and Lawrence Pharmacy.”
Q: Choosing anyone past or present, and non-relative, with whom would you like to have lunch with?
A: “J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI. I would just want to know what made him tick. He was really ahead of his time, but at the same time, if he had had a little humility, he could have probably been better. I would also like to find out if all the stories about him are true.”
Q: What is your favorite thing about Hall County?
A: “The location, so you’re an hour from the big city, and you’re an hour from the mountains and the streams. You’re six hours from the beach. You can be at the international airport in an hour and go anywhere in the world. But it’s not so big that we don’t know each other. It’s just the right size. I love how close we are to being everywhere you could want to be. I’m a big time outdoorsman, so I’m close enough that I’m not way out in the country, but at the same time I couldn’t live in a big city.”
Q: Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years?
A: “In five years, I hope I’m still here as a police chief, and that we’re growing with the city and evolving as law enforcement evolves. I hope to be progressive in what methods we use. In 10 years, I hope to be approaching retirement and getting ready to set out on the Appalachian Trail.”
Q: What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
A: “I love doing home chores. Inside and out. I’m not someone how likes to sit down and watch TV, I would much rather clean, organize, cut the grass.”
Q: What three words mean Home to you?
A: “Katy, Wyatt, and Grayson. That’s my family. I don’t have to be anybody when I’m with them.”
The Faces of Hall County is a project to showcase the amazing people that live or work in our community. If you would like to nominate an interesting person to be featured please email babernathy@gonorton.com.