Andrew Watkins and Apostle James Carter receive community service awards

Award winners recognized for leadership
Dec. 23, 2012 @ 07:05 AM

When Thomasville police chief Jeff Insley created the Megan Murphy Community Service Award three years ago he wanted to recognize individuals who give back.
At Monday night's Thomasville City Council meeting, Insley presented the award to a pair of men who do just that. Andrew Watkins and Apostle James Carter received this year's Megan Murphy award for their efforts to help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community.
"As chief, the big thing for me is partnerships," Insley said. "You've got to have the community with you. These two men have been instrumental in not only holding me accountable but ensuring we're moving in the right direction."
Carter, a pastor at Cornerstone Church of Christ for the past 37 years, pressed Insley early in the chief's Thomasville career to keep his word and follow through on community endeavors. Over the past four years, the two have forged a lasting partnership directed at improving the Thomasville community.
"I've been around Thomasville for 40 years," said Carter. "I've always been community minded and always took the chance to work with the chief of police and the police department.  I appreciate Chief Insley and the relationship we've developed since he's been here. He is community minded and is a man of integrity and character.
"Partnerships are very important. It should be a unit, a cohesiveness and purpose to make our community better. We don't expect the police department or the city to do it all. It takes the community as well. if we work together we can get things done."
Insley said Carter plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between law enforcement and citizens.
"He has been very instrumental for me in providing guidance and counsel," Insley said. "He has been an excellent resource to bounce new initiatives off that we as a department are wanting to do. When I first came to Thomasville we had a very interesting meeting and he challenged me. He wanted to make sure I lived up to what I was saying I was going to do. He's been very active with the department and our initiatives."
Watkins, a 26-year-old Thomasville High School graduate, is the program director for The Scene, an initiative that provides middle and high school students a safe place to get together in an effort to teach respect and avoid getting mixed up with wrong crowd. City Council recently approved the donation of the old North State building on Trade Street which is expected to become the future home of the program. 
"It's really special and is something I definitely wasn't expecting," said Watkins of the award. "I'm really humbled just being the small town kid born and raised here in Thomasville. We've done a lot of positive work with The Scene. I was really impressed with how community minded the chief is."
Watkins said the recent sting in Thomasville that netted 51 arrests for drug-related charges is an indication of what can happen when a community and local police work together.
"It's really an opportunity for us to highlight the importance of giving back to the community," Watkins said. Some of those guys were my age and guys  I went to school and played football with. It hit home. I think all of us should be challenged to do our part to uplift and deter kids from stepping into those same footsteps."
Insley said Watkins' work at The Scene has been a valuable asset to the Chair City.
"One of things we've wanted to focus on is our young folks and providing them with an environment and a means to where we're not dealing with them later," said Insley. "We want to put them on a productive path and give them an environment where they're safe and secure and can grow into productive citizens. That's what we're shooting for."

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or