The First Responder Spotlight Series features law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, and other emergency personnel who make it their business to serve our communities, often in ways we never see, each and every day.The series is sponsored by McKeithen’s True Value Hardware in Statesboro.
Michael Waters is a Bulloch County native, born and raised here with family ties dating back generations. But he’s a familiar face around the community for reasons beyond that, having spent the better part of the last twenty years in law enforcement.
When he was 18-years-old, Waters joined the Marine Corps Reserve, ventured off to Parris Island, and was later stationed with his reserve unit in Savannah. He enrolled in college, completed MOS school, and was taking college courses at Georgia Southern when his unit was activated for Desert Storm. He was sent to Norway and was in the Arctic when the war ended.
In 1998, he graduated from college and left Georgia to work in Houston for a period of time before realizing Texas wasn’t quite the right fit. He returned to Savannah for a year but was ultimately recruited by a friend and fellow veteran at the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office just outside of Atlanta where he began an unexpected career in law enforcement.
In 2000, he completed the academy and, because of his Bachelor’s degree, was able to bypass working in the jail to go straight to work on patrol. It was a huge learning curve for him, particularly the geographic component, so he often finished work to get back in the car and ride around with his deputy friend to familiarize himself with the county. By this time, Waters was 29-years-old, launching his career in law enforcement, and simultaneously deciding to settle down with his now-wife, Shannon.
After roughly six months on the job, he made it onto the SWAT team in Rockdale County before later ascending to work on the Drug Interdiction Unit. He worked both units, in addition to patrol, for a little more than four years and over the course of that time, his two children were born. But Waters said he realized the schedule and, at times, chaos of the specialized units was not exactly conducive for family life.
He and Shannon moved back south to Bulloch County and Waters actually left law enforcement entirely for about seven years. But, as many others in public service find, the departure from law enforcement was not permanent. While working in the private sector, Waters bumped into a friend who was working for the Georgia Southern Police Department. He urged him to apply and Waters was hired shortly thereafter.
Going from the wild hustle and bustle of Rockdale County to the college campus of Georgia Southern University was a transition of its own, as he often worked foot patrol and found himself having many different types of interactions. The change, however, opened the door for Waters into other corners of law enforcement and in 2012, he went to work for state probation. That was his work home until his brief stint in Pembroke and his ultimate arrival at the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office in 2017.
These days, you can find Waters at the Bulloch County Courthouse, as he’s assigned to the Court Services Division. He also works on the Sheriff’s Motor Unit, which is responsible for funeral escorts, community engagement activities, and training & mutual aid assistance with other agencies. Additionally, Waters is the current surveillance officer for the Bulloch County Drug Court, which means he ensures participants in the program are in compliance with the conditions of the program.
It all keeps him fairly busy, but all of it at a much different pace than patrol and even state probation. Law enforcement has evolved since he began, too, though many of those changes have not reached Bulloch County, which is largely supportive of the profession as a whole. Plus, the job for Waters remains rewarding in the various capacities he’s able to serve the community.
“Especially when you get to see someone turn their life around and get on the right track. That doesn’t happen every time, but it’s really rewarding when it does…to see how sometimes a negative event can have a life changing impact for the good,” he said in his interview.
He and his wife still live in Bulloch County, and their two children, a son and a daughter, attend the U.S. Naval Academy and the Virginia Military Institute, respectively.
You can read more articles in this series here.