Elliot "Stoney" Bowles’ first day on the job as the second in command for Hall County Fire and Emergency Services was unlike any other day in his 30-plus year fire services career.
"My first day was actually done remotely," said Bowles, who began as Hall County’s Deputy Fire Chief on March 30, a little over a week after a number of Hall County facilities were closed amid the COVID-19 outbreak and non-essential employees were directed to work from home.
"Not being in the office and not having an opportunity to visit the stations has made it a little more difficult to meet people and has made the integration process a little slower," he said. "But I’m confident we’ll get there... it’s just going to take a little time."
Time is something Bowles has plenty of when it comes to his experience with fire services. He began his career with the Cobb County Fire Department in 1984, earning the distinction of "Most Outstanding Fire Recruit" for the department in 1985. He rose through the ranks in Cobb, serving as fire captain, training division chief and battalion chief. In 2015, Bowles was hired as fire chief for the Covington Fire Department, a job he held for three years before being hired as Cherokee County Fire Services’ health and safety officer.
"I was immediately attracted to this opportunity with Hall County," Bowles said. "This area has seen a lot of growth, and it was impressive to see how modern and up-to-date the equipment and facilities are here. You can tell that there’s been some thoughtful, progressive leadership in Hall County that has set this organization up for success."
While the timing of Bowles’ start date was unusual, he said the selfless acts of courage he’s seen in the men and women on the front lines of this pandemic, specifically within the fire and emergency services department, has been exactly what he had hoped for when he took the job.
"Carefully compassionate. That’s how I would describe our front line employees right now," Bowles said. "They’re treating patients exactly how you or I would want to be treated in these scary circumstances. They’re responding to EMS calls with protective gear, and they’re following all of the guidelines that they need to follow, but they haven’t lost that human element that’s at the heart of what emergency services is all about."
Hall County Fire Chief Chris Armstrong said despite the unusual circumstances, Bowles has already proved to be an asset to the department.
"Stoney has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to this industry," Armstrong said. "Even though our men and women in the field aren’t able to see him face to face right now, his wisdom and guidance are still being felt and will only continue to strengthen our leadership team moving forward."