Wetherington retiring after 36 years of 'rewards and tragedies'

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NORTH AUGUSTA --- Tuesday wasn't a very productive day for North Augusta Public Safety Chief Lee Wetherington.

He spent much of the day shaking hands and receiving farewells on the last day of a 36-year career.

He said he was the first public safety officer hired when the fire and police department merged in 1976.

Chief Wetherington said he doesn't plan on going anywhere, so goodbyes aren't needed. His first months of retirement will be spent working on a "honey-do" list for his wife.

"I'm going to slow down. I'm not going to miss listening to my pager and wondering if I have to go look at a dad that killed himself and murdered his two sons or a 6-year-old girl that was raped," he said. "All those images that get burned in your mind aren't easy to forget."

He said he also won't miss being in the spotlight as a public figure. Chief Wetherington said part of his decision to retire was based on the publicity surrounding a sexually explicit e-mail that was sent in May. It resulted in a one-week suspension for him and suspension of other officers and staff.

"I still think that was blown way out of proportion," he said.

"It's so trivial when you look at everything we've done over the years. My career is full of rewards and tragedies."

Even on his last day, Mr. Wetherington was still trying to solve one of those tragedies. Investigators pulled a file for the unsolved 2005 Huddle House murder of William Powell, a friend and coffee buddy of Chief Wetherington. Another friend, the Rev. Earl Carter, was wounded in the random attack.

"I'll never let that go," Chief Wetherington said. "They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I know the families, and we'd both like to have some closure to it."

The two men were entering the restaurant early on the morning of Nov. 22 when a man approached them and began firing.

Though there are some loose ends to tie up on some cases, there are three he's proud the department solved: the Keenan O'Malia case in 1999, in which the 6-year-old boy was abducted and murdered by a pedophile; the David Mark Hill case in 1996, in which a man opened fire at the Department of Social Services and killed three people; and the killing of former North Augusta Mayor Kim Ledford in 2002.

As for his replacement, Chief Wetherington said whoever comes in has to believe in teamwork.

"You have to surround yourself with people that are going to shoot from the hip and be honest and tell you when you're crazy," he said.

Chief Wetherington's replacement is expected to be announced in March.

Reach Julia Sellers at (706) 823-3424 or julia.sellers@augustachronicle.com

Comments (12) Add comment
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RBI
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RBI 02/18/09 - 06:12 am
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Of course he would think that

Of course he would think that it was blown way out of porportion because the e-mail led to his suspension. The bottom line is you have to adhere to the same standards that you expect of your subordinates.

karmakills123
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karmakills123 02/18/09 - 07:40 am
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Good luck Chief !!!Thank you

Good luck Chief !!!Thank you for your service and thank you for the many times you helped me and my business......God Bless

Georgialina
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Georgialina 02/18/09 - 08:16 am
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Good Luck Chief. You will be

Good Luck Chief. You will be missed. Your service to North Augusta will be hard to replace. Hope you don't drive Joyce too crazy being home all the time!! Thank you for your service and may God bless you.

Anyone1
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Anyone1 02/18/09 - 10:19 am
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RBI, You are an a-hole!

RBI, You are an a-hole!

curly123053
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curly123053 02/18/09 - 10:20 am
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I dealt with Chief

I dealt with Chief Wetherington several times in my years with EMS. I remember him as a Public Safety officer being caring and down to earth, and when he became chief he was no different. I wish Chief Wetherington a happy retirement.

Doodles4
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Doodles4 02/18/09 - 10:35 am
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Wish he could have found out

Wish he could have found out who stole my husband's truck from the Wal-Mart parking lot in North Augusta in 8/07 in the middle of the day. But I guess that wasn't a high enough profile case to warrant much time spent. Found 2 weeks later in Augusta after having been stripped. Never heard anything back regarding any "investigation". North Augusta didn't even call me to tell me the truck had been recovered and towed in. The tow company called the next morning to see if I was the owner and to let me know there would be a $100 towing charge. I'm sure you did many great things during your 36 years and wish you the best in your retirement.

stephianne63
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stephianne63 02/18/09 - 11:15 am
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Doodles4, are you kidding

Doodles4, are you kidding me?! This article talks about senseless murders and children being kidnapped and killed and you're talking about your stupid truck! No, i'm sure it wasn't on the top of his list. That's what insurance is for... get a life.

curly123053
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curly123053 02/18/09 - 11:26 am
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No department in the CSRA or

No department in the CSRA or country for that matter is going to have a 100% clearance in their crimes. I too was the victim of a breaking and entering in Aiken County years ago that never was solved. But I did not blame the sheriff. Life goes on......

elliottness
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elliottness 02/18/09 - 11:33 am
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mm please tell us how many

mm please tell us how many murders,kidnappings,and violent crimes n augusta has had in the last 36 years?their police mainly target speeders and gas drive offs.they get one call and 27 officers show up,and don't turn up a coke can or bottle when driving,they just know they got a dui this time.

swagga
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swagga 02/18/09 - 12:00 pm
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Elliottness....sorry that

Elliottness....sorry that most of the people who stay in our community have morals and values....NEXT COMMENT PLEASE!!!

stephianne63
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stephianne63 02/18/09 - 12:26 pm
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God forbid they target people

God forbid they target people who are breaking the law. Never heard of anyone getting pulled over for drinking a coke. But you're so knowledgable about it elliottness, it must be true!

DEVGRU
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DEVGRU 02/18/09 - 07:53 pm
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Some of you outstanding

Some of you outstanding citizens sure show your intelligence with your comments. Ding-dongs. It's raining outside you need to stop looking up at the sky and come indoors. Happy retirement Lee you deserve it.

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