David Leonard has spent his life helping people all over the State of Georgia. And even though he's now retired as a special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, he plans to continue helping people.
The 63-year-old Mr. Leonard joined the City of Wrens Police Department as their new criminal investigator on Monday. It marks the first time ever that the police department there has had a full-time lawman assigned specifically to investigate criminal cases.
The Jefferson County city won't be new to Mr. Leonard - it's where he's investigated dozens of assorted crimes through the years as a GBI agent, and a place he's called his home for the past 40 years. Wrens also is a place where he spent 15 years serving as a volunteer firefighter - again serving others.
"I've always enjoyed helping people in whatever way I could," said Mr. Leonard on the last day of his job as a special agent with the GBI Region 7 office near Thomson last Friday. "It's just always made me feel good to help people, if it was where I could."
The majority of his years with the state were spent working as a state fire marshal. He first joined the state fire marshal's office as an arson investigator in October 1973. And when the department consolidated with the GBI on Nov. 1, 1991, he began working cases as a specially-trained arson investigator for the GBI.
It wasn't until later that Mr. Leonard actually attended "Special Agent School" with the GBI.
Ironically, the supervisory agent issuing him his equipment when he went to work for the GBI was Special Agent Gary Nicholson, who now is in charge of the GBI Region 7 office in Thomson.
"I enjoyed working for Gary," said Mr. Leonard. "Gary is a great leader."
Mr. Leonard also spoke highly of Special Agent Pat Morgan, who serves as assistant agent in-charge of the local GBI office.
"Since being promoted, he's done an outstanding job," said Mr. Leonard. "Like Gary, Pat is a very good agent."
Mr. Leonard pointed out that during his 17 years with the GBI that the Thomson office had been particularly blessed with some good agents. Among them were Jimmy Talkington and Teddy Jackson, both of whom retired earlier this year. One of the agents still working out of the local office that Mr. Leonard "respects very highly," is Special Agent Steve Foster, the crime scene specialist. Mr. Leonard understands the vital role that a crime scene specialist performs, because he had the job before Agent Foster came to the Thomson office.
On the last day of the job, Agent Nicholson commended Mr. Leonard for his dedication and loyalty to the bureau.
"Dave is one of the best team players that we've ever had," said Agent Nicholson. "He never complained about the long hours of the job or anything. He just knew what had to be done and went out and did it."
Agent Morgan contends that Mr. Leonard "will be an asset" at the Wrens Police Department.
"He always did us a fine job," he added. "He's a great guy and we're going to miss him."
During Mr. Leonard's years as a state arson investigator, "I tried to help as many as I could through some rough times in their lives. That part of the job was rewarding to me."
Mr. Leonard solved dozens of arson cases and helped in the prosecution of a number of persons who were convicted of arson and sentenced to prison terms. The same held true when he began working as an arson specialist with the GBI.
Later, he helped solve such cases as homicides, bank robberies, child molestations and other violent crimes.
"I hope I was able to help a number of people who were wronged by someone else," said Mr. Leonard. "I sincerely hope that our judicial system gave them something back - some sort of satisfaction. That's about all any of us in law enforcement can hope for where victims are concerned."
A former longtime Air Guardsman, Mr. Leonard is a former child abuse specialist with the GBI.
Law enforcement has been his life through the years.
"It's definitely been a big part of my life," said Mr. Leonard. "It's been a real tremendous experience."