The end of one chapter was just the start of another for a former Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office major who left the department recently to pursue a position with the Ellijay Police Department — a job he said he has been prepping for his entire career.
Ed Lacey officially was sworn in as the Ellijay police chief Jan. 7.
“I’ve spent my whole career at Cherokee County, serving the people the best I can. Sheriff Roger Garrison has always been really good to me and was always preparing me for an executive position in law enforcement,” Lacey said. “It has always been my goal, and when the position became available, I couldn’t turn it down.”
One could say the top cop position just sort of fell into Lacey’s lap, as he had no intention of leaving the sheriff’s office until Ellijay city officials reached out and encouraged him to apply for the position, which was vacated by former Chief Larry Callahan.
“I was not looking for a new job when the position became available, but the former chief had recommended me to the mayor and (Ellijay) City Council, and they asked me to consider the position,” he said.
Prior to leaving to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Lacey was leading the training division. Over the course of his 22-year career, Lacey held numerous ranks and spent time in nearly all divisions, including uniform patrol as a deputy, criminal investigation as a detective and internal affairs as a lieutenant.
After three years, Lacey made captain over administrative services and eventually moved back to criminal investigations, where he held his captain rank.
“I made major and was placed in charge of uniform patrol operations for four years and had just taken a position to head up our training division and oversee the new (training) building when this all came up,” he said.
In addition to an abundance of training and experience, Lacey obtained his master’s degree in criminal administration and graduated from the Georgia Command College and the FBI National Academy while serving the people of Cherokee County.
“The training that I received is what has prepared me for the position at Ellijay,” he said. “I spent time learning how to research, write and implement policy. I also learned how to request and manage the budget for Cherokee County, which is going to enable me to do that here.”
Personnel issues that Lacey encountered at the sheriff’s office have also shaped how he plans to run his department.
“Just about everything that I have done in Cherokee County has prepared me for this,” he said. “The people I worked with had a high caliber of professionalism; it has been awesome.”
Garrison shared similar sentiments, stating that the agency will not be “replacing” Lacey.
“Ed is going to be missed, and we are not even going to begin to replace him because we can’t replace him,” Garrison said. “He has been a very close personal friend and a mentor of mine, just as I have mentored him. He has been there for me spiritually and vice versa.”
Much as the sheriff’s office molded Lacey for the next chapter of his career, he has left his mark on the agency, too.
“My greatest accomplishment was back in 1994 when I approached the sheriff about increasing our training program to a multi-discipline training program,” he said. “I was able to help develop an all-encompassing training program that would fit all the pieces of training together into a one-stop program.”
Lacey said this model eventually turned into a multi-agency training program.
“I did not do it myself, but I was proud to be a part of getting all the agency in Cherokee County working together in our training,” he said. “We have the cities of Canton, Holly Springs, Woodstock, the school police and the sheriff’s office all training together so we know what each expectations are from each agency.”
With a little more than week on the job under his belt, Lacey shared some goals he has for the Ellijay Police Department — including professionalism and implementing community oriented policing, where officers partner with the community to get to the root of the problem.
“I would like to build on the legacy of the former (Ellijay) chief; they had a good chief that left the department in a good way,” he said.
Serving the people, however, is always a top priority for Lacey.
“I have lived in Ellijay my whole life. This is just a great opportunity for me to serve the people of the community I grew up in,” he said. “This gives me a chance to capitalize on all the training and experience that (Garrison) has offered me to prepare me for this day.”
Garrison said he was proud Lacey was given the opportunity to return to his hometown and pursue the chief position.