McConnell Keynote Speaker at GNTC Basis Law Enforcement Graduation



GNTC Honors Graduates Under Basic Law

Seven Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) students graduated from Basic Law Enforcement Training courses 2021-01 and 2021-02 on Monday, December 6, in a ceremony held at the on-campus conference center of Gordon County.

James Pledger, Director of the GNTC Law Enforcement Academy, welcomed graduates and guests and introduced guest speaker, retired Sheriff and GNTC Foundation Administrator Gary McConnell.

McConnell served as Chattooga County Sheriff for 20 years and went on to serve several law enforcement agencies across the country.

A career lawyer, McConnell served as deputy under the direction of his father, Sheriff John Frank McConnell. At the age of 22, Gary McConnell assumed the duties of his father’s sheriff after his father’s death in 1967. As the youngest sheriff in Georgian history, McConnell started the Assistant Program junior, was president of the Georgia Sheriff’s and County Office Statewide Association, served on the board of directors of the Northwest Georgia Region Police Academy as well as the State Board of Public Safety.

McConnell’s emergency management experience includes serving as director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and chief of staff for state law enforcement during the 1996 Summer Olympics to Atlanta. He also advised law enforcement officials in preparation for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

“It’s one of the greatest honors you can have in law enforcement,” McConnell said during his speech.

Graduates of the Basic Law Enforcement Class # 2021-01:

  • Emily L. Dillard (not present at the ceremony)
  • Zachary D. Newman
  • José A. Ulibarri, Jr.
  • Joshua A. Murs

Graduates of the Basic Law Enforcement Class # 2021-02:

  • Benjamin Ayala
  • Chaz A. Shelton
  • Owen L. Towe

The “Top Gun” Firearms Award for Excellence in Marksmanship and the Academic Award (Honorary Graduate) went to Zachary D. Newman.

Five graduates are already employed by law enforcement agencies in the community of northwest Georgia.

Newman is employed by the Ringgold Police Department. Benjamin Ayala and Jose Ulibarri are employed by the Calhoun Police Department. Chaz Shelton works for the Polk County Police Department and Emily Dillard works for the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office.

Northwestern Georgia Technical College provides quality workforce training to citizens of Northwest Georgia. Students have the option of earning an associate degree, diploma or certificate in aviation, business, health, industry, or public service. Last year, 11,820 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and non-credit programs. GNTC has 8,591 students enrolled each year and an additional 3,229 through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start. For more information about GNTC, visit us at The GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an equal opportunity institution.

– cutting line for attached Photo-

GNTC Basic Law Enforcement graduates (left to right) Joshua Walls, Jose Ulibarri, Zachary Newman, Chaz Shelton, Benjamin Ayala and Owen Towe (not pictured Emily L. Dillard).




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