The Newton County Sheriff’s Office recently recognized some of its top employees. Pictured here, from left, are Deputy Milton Hightower, who was named Rookie of the Year; Vivian Ramsey, who was named Employee of the Year; and Lt. Paul Gunter, who was selected as Deputy of the Year. (Staff photo: Aimee Jones)
COVINGTON — Three Newton County Sheriff’s Office employees received one of the highest honors recently – being selected by their peers as employees of the year.
Supervisors and commanders in the Sheriff’s Office nominate people for Deputy of the Year, Employee of the Year and Rookie of the Year. Every employee then votes on who they believe is deserving of those honors. Lt. Paul Gunter was selected as the Deputy of the Year; Vivian Ramsey was named Employee of the Year; and Deputy Milton Hightower was selected as Rookie of the Year. They were formally recognized during the Sheriff’s Office 5th Annual Awards Ceremony on Friday.
All three recipients told the Citizen they were surprised and honored to have been recognized by their peers. But for their fellow co-workers, their selection was obvious.
Gunter said that in just his first year, Hightower has already made a difference as a member of the Crime Suppression Unit.
“He seriously gives 100 percent all the time,” Gunter said. “It shows in the statistics that the Crime Suppression Unit is making a marked difference in areas of high-crime activities.”
Investigator Jeff Alexander said that Ramsey’s work in the Warrant Unit has been invaluable.
“She is our go-to person. If we ever needed anything or any information, we call Vivian and it’s right there,” he said.
For Gunter’s part, Alexander and Sgt. Cortney Morrison said that his expertise is unsurpassed in helping Sheriff’s Office personnel obtain necessary certifications in their field and coordinating training for all 234 employees. At the same time, Gunter heads up a worthy service for the community as the coordinator for Project Lifesaver, which helps caregivers keep track of Alzheimer’s patients who may wander away from their homes.
• Milton Hightower
Deputy Hightower joined the Newton County Sheriff’s Office in September 2012 after serving eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps. While he was named Rookie of the Year, Hightower continues a legacy of law enforcement, following in the footsteps of his mother, Lt. Gwen Hightower, who retired in December after 29 years with the Sheriff’s Office.
Joining the Sheriff’s Office seemed a natural fit for Hightower, but even so, he said he did not expect to be recognized as Rookie of the Year.
“I was satisfied just getting hired and getting a chance to work here,” he said.
Hightower said working at the Sheriff’s Office gives him the opportunity to do his part to keep his hometown safe, but his favorite part of the job boils down to the relationships he builds.
“I think my favorite part is the brotherhood and sisterhood you build – the camaraderie,” he said.
• Vivian Ramsey
Vivian Ramsey has worked in the Warrant Unit, Detention Division since 2005. Her responsibilities include entering data in GCIC, the state crime database, removing names once the warrants have been served, and making sure that all the paperwork is in order when it’s time to turn cases over to the District Attorney’s Office.
Ramsey started her career with the Sheriff’s Office in May 1985 as a detention officer in the jail. She served there for two years before moving to administration. Like Hightower, Ramsey followed in the footsteps of her father, Otis Harper, who retired from the Sheriff’s Office.
“This is just a natural fit,” she said.
Ramsey said she enjoys her work and contributing in such an important way to the Sheriff’s Office.
She said when she learned she was selected as Employee of the Year, she was surprised because she knows what strong assets the other nominees are to the Sheriff’s Office.
Ramsey said she is humbled to have garnered such respect from her peers, many of whom are more than just friends, but are like family.
“Things have changed a lot since 1985,” she said, “but the people and the camaraderie, that stays the same.”
• Lt. Paul Gunter
Paul Gunter started his law enforcement career in 1976 with the DeKalb County Police Department. He then moved to the Covington Police Department, where he worked from 1985 to 1998, until he took time away from police work to serve as an associate pastor for four years at a church in Conyers.
But in 2002, he was once again called back to law enforcement and has been with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office ever since.
“I’ve always believed when you have a calling, you give it all you’ve got, and I give 100 percent because I enjoy what I’m doing,” said Gunter, who was named Deputy of the Year.
He said that as much as he enjoyed working in the ministry – he earned a doctorate in ministry in pastoral counseling – he missed law enforcement during his time as a pastor.
Today, Gunter is the chaplain for the Sheriff’s Office and in 2008 was appointed as the first training coordinator for the NCSO. In that capacity, he is responsible for making sure all employees receive the proper certifications to do their jobs, whether it is as jail staff or command staff, and to coordinate training for all the NCSO employees.
He said last year, the Sheriff’s Office logged 24,000 hours of training for all 234 employees.
Gunter also helps employees who want to obtain advanced training and certifications accomplish those goals and advance their careers.
“What I enjoy most, after 33 years, is seeing other people succeed,” he said. “I take great pleasure in seeing other people reach their goals.”