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BOLIVIA— Despite being a place most people don’t want to go, Michael Fowler enjoys going to work.
Fowler is a detention sergeant at the Brunswick County Detention Center. On Sept. 27, he was let in on a little secret his coworkers and his wife had been keeping from him. Fowler was named the North Carolina Jail Administrator’s Association Detention Officer of the Year.
“They pulled a fast one on me,” Fowler said.
Every year the association has a conference. This year Fowler was sent to Greensboro to take a few classes and attend a banquet. He was sitting at a table with several of his coworkers and bosses when his name was called.
“I almost dropped my water glass when they called my name,” Fowler said. “Everyone knew. At the first of the proceedings they called Capt. Sam Davis to the front, but when they called for me I knew something was up.”
Davis and his superiors nominated Fowler several months before the September announcement.
“The biggest honor in all of this is being recognized by my superiors,” Fowler said. “It’s an honor that someone sees your efforts; that is worth it all.”
Fowler has been a full-time employee with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office since March 11, 2008. Prior to joining BCSO, Fowler visited the jail as a pest exterminator.
“Each time Mike visited the jail, he was asked to join the detention staff and in March 2008, Bug Man Mike Fowler became Officer Mike Fowler,” wrote Davis in his nomination.
“Every day is unique in itself,” Fowler said. “You never know what you will be faced with day-to-day. Everything can change in seconds.”
The detention center has a capacity of 444 inmates.
“I don’t think the average person realizes what it takes to keep an inmate safe, fed, medicine, healthy, etc. The average cost to house an inmate is $76 and changes per day,” said Capt. J. Evans. “Everything you’d use on the outside, we have to provide on the inside.”
“Detention is a challenge,” Fowler said. “We deal with an inmate from the time they walk in the door until they go to court and sometimes longer. The average stay is 30 days; some stay one to two years. You become their mother, father, mentor.”
Fowler said as a part of his job he offers guidance and often has to walk inmates through the death of a family member while they are in jail.
“You have to be a compassionate person, you have to be a special kind of person to walk through these doors and stick with it,” Evans said. “When you walk through these doors you don’t know what you are going to have to become. Ninety-five percent of the people who come to jail have some sort of mental health issue from drug abuse to being off in the head.”
“You have to take disorder and maintain order,” Fowler said.
Fowler plans to stay at the detention center for the long-term.
“The only way they could get rid of me is if the Sheriff walked in here and made me leave,” Fowler said. “I did what I had to do for 16 years. Now I do what I want to do.”
“Sgt. Fowler exemplifies the honor, integrity and professionalism that we expect of a Brunswick County Detention Officer,” Davis said. “Sgt. Fowler’s leadership abilities are without question and second to none. Each officer he supervises has total and complete respect for him professionally and personally. It is my honor to serve the citizens of Brunswick County alongside an officer like Sgt. Fowler.”
Rachel Johnsonis a staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com.