Lieutenant to lead Georgia State Patrol after interim’s exit

The deputy commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Public Safety has been tapped to lead the department following the interim commissioner’s departure.

The Board of Public Safety on Wednesday voted to approve Chris Wright as the new commissioner of the department and Colonel of the Georgia State Patrol, according to a news release from Gov. Brian Kemp’s office.

Wright will take over for Gary Vowell, a former sheriff chosen to head the department on an interim basis in February after the prior chief resigned in the aftermath of a test-cheating scandal involving state troopers.

Wright previously served as deputy commissioner and director of field operations under Vowell. He began his career with the Georgia State Patrol as a radio operator in 1994, according to the release.

In addition to Wright’s appointment, William Hitchens was named Lieutenant Colonel of the Georgia State Patrol and deputy commissioner of the department. Stephanie Stallings was also named Lieutenant Colonel of the Georgia State Patrol and director of support and administrative operations.

“As Colonel Vowell leaves the Department, it is critical that we have strong, experienced leadership in state law enforcement to meet these unprecedented times,” Kemp said in a statement. “With distinguished careers spanning several decades and an unparalleled commitment to the safety of all Georgians, incoming Colonel Chris Wright, Lieutenant Colonel Billy Hitchens, and Lieutenant Colonel Stephanie Stallings embody that leadership.”