Talladega City Manager Brian Muenger said he had enjoyed working with Watson for the last five years, saying “he was a great administrator and always a good steward of taxpayer money. He has grown the department in many ways, and it will continue to grow and get better in the future.”
Talladega County District Attorney Steve Giddens, who has served with Watson on the board of the Drug and Violent Crime Task Force as well as through the court system, agreed. “He’s a good man, and that’s the place you need to start for a great leader…Whoever comes next will have some big shoes to fill.”
Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore also praised Watson’s leadership, saying, “He’s gotten a lot done during his tenure. Car cameras, a metro jail, central dispatch, he was an instrumental player in all of these things. We’ll see you in October.”
Circuit Judge Julian King said he has known Watson “for the whole time he has been a police officer, and can say without reservation that he is a true, honest and faithful public servant.”
Former Sylacauga Police Chief Louis Zook, who now works for the state attorney general’s office, said Watson had only two questions in any situation: “Is it good for law enforcement, and is it good for the people of the city,” he said. “He represented both well.”
Zook then presented a proclamation from the attorney general.
Former Talladega Police Chief Mike Hamlin, who hired Watson, said, “I must be dying right now, because my life is passing before my eyes. I was there at the beginning, and when you’ve hired as many people as I did, it’s something to remember. It’s kind of like a Broadway play. The players keep on changing, but the story is always the same.”
Watson also received well wishes from former administrative assistant Judy Williams and current assistant Angela Lackey.
Lackey praised Watson’s “strong work ethic. He serves on all these boards not because he likes to but because he cares about our department and our city. I also know how important his family is to him. He’s been married to Tammie for 30 years now, and I know he worships her and his two daughters and four grandchildren.”
Lackey and the officers of the department then presented Watson with a shadow-box commemorating his service, and Mayor Larry Barton, Council President Horace Patterson and councilman Ricky Simpson, along with Muenger, presented him with a plaque and key to the city.
Visibly moved, Watson said, “I love this department, and I’m excited about where we’re going. There are so many people in this room who helped us get to where we are now, and to whoever comes after me, I can just say hold on, buddy, it’s worth it. I love coming to work every day, and I’m grateful to my family for putting up with me all these years. There are a lot of Christmases, a lot of July Fourths, a lot of late nights I’ve had to work, or I’ve had to work for days at a time without coming home.”
He added that he felt certain that Muenger would pick a fine successor to him. “I’ve seen both sides, the mayor form of government and the manager, and I have to say the city has definitely improved under the manager form. We have professional management and better equipment.”
A permanent successor had not been named as of Thursday afternoon, but Lt. Jason Busby had been named as interim chief.
Contact Chris Norwood at firstname.lastname@example.org