Cobb’s new public safety director shook hands with many of the men and women he will oversee after county commissioners tapped him for the role. But many of the dozens of audience members in uniform were not there just to witness the naming of their new boss; rather, to continue a push toward higher pay.
Michael Register will take over as director after nearly two years as Cobb’s police chief. He replaces Sam Heaton, who retired at the end of March. Cobb County Fire Chief Randy Crider had been serving as acting public safety director since Heaton’s departure.
“Let me say to all the men and women that work under the public safety umbrella, that you’re my No. 1 priority,” Register said after his appointment was approved by the board. “I have the utmost respect for each and every one of you, and you ought to be thanked and appreciated on a daily basis for the selfless service that you give to your community, and I will work as a part of your team to make not only public safety a better place to work, but also to improve the Cobb County public safety apparatus so we can better serve our community.”
Register was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Bob Ott casting the sole vote in opposition.
“I think the money associated with this position needs to go towards the rank-and-file fire and police to improve their pay,” Ott said prior to the vote. He told the MDJ prior to the meeting that his vote would not be cast against Register, but rather, the position he would be assuming.
“Chief Register has done a great job, but it’s $310,000 (to pay a director and their support staff). I don’t think we need that at this point in time, just like we didn’t need the federal lobbyist for $250,000,” Ott said, referring to a vote last month to give the county the go-ahead to seek a lobbyist at the federal level. “I just don’t support filling the position.”
Register was named police chief in June 2017, coming to Cobb after serving as chief of the Clayton County Police Department. His career also includes service in the Army Special Forces for 22 years, including combat operations in Afghanistan, as well as experience working with the FBI and at the Pentagon.
Register won the role out of nearly 80 applicants for the position, which was posted on the county’s employment website on Jan. 4 and advertised an annual salary of $146,371.50 to $219,557.26, the MDJ previously reported. Heaton’s annual salary had been $156,404.
Register will make $154,100 a year in the new position, county spokesperson Ross Cavitt said.
As last month’s meeting got underway, commissioners had a view of audience members’ signs that read “Fix it now” and “I support Cobb County Public Safety.” This was the latest county meeting this year to feature a full-court press over pay rates for safety personnel.
Among the multiple community members who spoke on the matter was Bryan Reid, who told commissioners he had retired from Cobb Fire Department this past July. He said many of his peers remain in the department despite personnel shortages caused by low pay because they know the importance of their job.
“They love the job, and they know it’s crucial to be able to place a ladder to a third-floor balcony at 3 o’clock in the morning with 60 pounds of gear on when a woman’s threatening to throw her 3-year-off the balcony because fire is licking at their butt,” Reid said.