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GNTC honors Basic Law Enforcement Graduates

December 8, 2021–8:10 a.m.


Seven Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) students graduated from Basic Law Enforcement Training Classes #2021-01 and #2021-02 on Monday, Dec. 6, during a ceremony held at the conference center on the Gordon County Campus.

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

McConnell served as Chattooga County’s sheriff for 20 years and has continued to serve multiple law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

A career lawman, McConnell served as a deputy under his father, Sheriff John Frank McConnell. When he was 22, Gary McConnell assumed his father’s duties as sheriff following his father’s death in 1967.  As the youngest sheriff in Georgia history, McConnell started the Junior Deputy Program, was the president of the Georgia Sheriff’s and County Office Statewide Association, served on the board of the NW Georgia Region Police Academy as well as the State Board of Public Safety.

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

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

Basic Law Enforcement Training Class #2021-01 Graduates:

  • Emily L. Dillard (not present at ceremony)
  • Zachary D. Newman
  • Jose A. Ulibarri, Jr.
  • Joshua A. Walls

Basic Law Enforcement Training Class #2021-02 Graduates:

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

The firearms “Top Gun” Award for excellence in marksmanship and the Academic (Honor Graduate) Award was presented to Zachary D. Newman.

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

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

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).