Even when Tommy Strickland was just a boy, he knew he wanted to be a state trooper. Having a grandfather who was the local sheriff and an uncle who was a Georgia State Patrol lieutenant, he had plenty of early influence. When he became old enough, Strickland worked his way from sheriff’s radio operator to master trooper.
But now it’s time for a break.
After 31 years in law enforcement, health challenges require Strickland to retire.
“Tommy Strickland, to those that know him, is a local legend,” said Cpl. Robbie Scott, who worked with Strickland at Georgia State Patrol Post 45 in Statesboro.
Many in the community remember when Strickland was rushed to the hospital with a heart attack in early spring of 2020.
He was admitted to Memorial Health Medical Center and underwent triple bypass surgery.
“I feel fine, even though I am not recovering as fast as I want to,” he told the Statesboro Herald on Monday.
However, even though he has recovered well from the surgery, he believes it is time to take a different path.
He plans to “hunt, fish and spend time with my family” now that he is retired, he said, with a smile in his voice. “I can finally be off on my birthday and Christmas.”
Strickland, born July 4, 1966, attended Pinewood Christian Academy in Bellville and graduated in 1985. While attending Swainsboro Technical College, he enlisted in the United States Army and joined the 82nd Airborne Division assigned to the 505th Airborne Infantry Battalion.
Later, true to his childhood aspirations, he accepted a dispatching position as a Bulloch County sheriff’s deputy in 1989, working under Sheriff Arnold Ray Akins.
“Arnold Ray told me I had a job as long as he was elected,” Strickland said.
The realm was familiar, as his grandfather, Paul Nevil, served as Bulloch County’s sheriff for years after having been elected in 1961.
“I enjoyed the Sheriff’s Office, but I always wanted to be a trooper,” he said.
His uncle and other troopers he worked with left a lasting impression with their “professionalism and how they treated people,” he said.
“I wanted to do a little bit more.”
Becoming a trooper
In December 1994, Strickland was accepted by the Georgia State Patrol, attending the 74th Trooper School. First assigned to Post 21 in Sylvania, he was transferred to Post 45 in Statesboro in 2000.
“Since then, Tommy became one of the most recognizable troopers in the southeast,” Scott said.
Strickland said Nevil “always taught me to treat people like I want to be treated, as long as they will let me.”
In following that advice, Strickland has left a large impression on friends and coworkers.
“I wish there were more like Tommy,” said former Bulloch County sheriff Lynn Anderson. “I knew Tommy from when he was very young. He was as good to people as his granddaddy was; very laid back, and has a very good sense of humor. He is a just a stand-up guy, a super guy to work with.”
Bulloch County sheriff’s Lt. Bobby Durden agreed.
“I worked with him back in the ‘80s and ‘90s at the Sheriff’s Office,” he said. “He is just a good guy, a genuine guy, a pleasure to work with as a trooper, too. Tommy never got riled and always calmed people down by talking to them.”
Scott said Strickland is even-tempered.
“I don’t think I have ever seen him in a bad mood.”
Retired GSP Sgt. Lisa Bowen remembered Strickland from when he first was assigned to the Sylvania post.
“He is a fun-loving guy, really professional,” she said. “A good boy, kind of quiet until you get to know him. He was good to work with and wonderful at coming to assist.”
Strickland admitted it was a habit of his to help with wrecks and calls even when off duty.
“I would be at the table eating and hear a call about a wreck where somebody was going to go work by themselves,” he said. “It wasn’t my call, but I’m not going to let them go out alone.”
A ‘gentle giant’
Strickland is of average stature, but Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown judges him by his heart.
“He is a gentle giant,” he said, speaking to the Herald Monday during a break in training. “He reminds me of his granddaddy. Tommy would rather help somebody out than take them to jail. He has compassion, but he can also be stern.”
Brown said he thinks Strickland’s early experience at the Bulloch County Jail, when it was still in a small building on Hill Street, helped build that compassion. Working in the jail with inmates and dispatching calls gave him different perspectives “and taught him how to deal with people all around” the law enforcement world, he said.
Retired Master Trooper Tommy Sisson was one of Strickland’s coworkers who helped teach him the ropes when he first joined the State Patrol.
“I was his field training officer when he first came out,” he said. “”He was a real good trooper, a real good master trooper. I worked with him on several details. He is a good law enforcement officer and was trained well.”
Celebrating a ‘master trooper’
Married to wife Stephanie for 17 years, Strickland has three children: Stephen, 26, Karen, 24, and Dalton, 15.
Working hard at a job he loves, Strickland earned the title of master trooper, serving over 20 years on the road.
“Master troopers among the Georgia State Patrol are few and far between, and it is a prestigious title to own,” Scott said. “Master Trooper Strickland served the citizens of Georgia for 31 faithful years and has an effective retirement date of Aug. 1, 2020.”
A dinner honoring Strickland will be held Wednesday, Aug. 26, at The Old Pond House restaurant in Metter, behind Bevrick’s, he said. A “meet and greet” will begin at 5:30 p.m., and dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. Scott asks that those planning to attend please text an RSVP to (912) 690-3944.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.