Amy Dunham, chairwoman of the Women’s Council, presented the awards.
Tracy Smith of Beck, Owen and Murray won the Staff Person of the Year Award and was praised for her willingness to take on extra tasks. Sherry Darsey of the Kiwanis Club of Griffin won Secretary of the Year and was praised for being a “jack of all trades.” Gerald Arkin of the University of Georgia-Griffin campus earned the Boss of the Year Award and was praised for offering feedback instead of just criticism, his integrity and his enthusiasm.
After the awards were handed out, Tim Dender introduced Sandy. On April 11, 2000, Sandy was driving drunk with a friend and crashed into an oncoming car, literally splitting it in two. Two passengers in the other car died. Sandy was convicted of two counts of vehicular homicide by DUI and was released from prison only last year.
Sandy described how he had four mixed drinks before he got behind the wheel. He could have been sentenced to 30 years in prison but got a plea bargain — 13 years in jail and 17 on probation.
He described how he tried to apologize to the victims’ family when he made the plea bargain but it felt like empty words to him. Then he described how he went to a maximum-security prison in Jackson.
“Prisons are as bad as you think, if not worse,” he said.
He said when he went to prison, he thought he would have a cellmate who committed a similar crime. Instead, his cellmate was serving life for murders committed in 1969. He also thought there would only be “bad people” in jail and most of them were.
Sandy was released on parole on Aug. 5, 2009.
“That is when my second sentence began,” he said.
He will remain on parole until he is 53. He has a parole officer supervising every day of his life. He must pay the officer for drug and alcohol tests and must remain employed.
“If I lose this job, there’s a good chance I’ll end up back in prison,” he said.
He has been continuing the speaking engagements he began while he was incarcerated, warning people about the dangers of drunken driving. He visited Gordon College and, earlier that day, Pike County High School. Every student who was going to the prom was required to listen to him speak. He said after his presentation, many students came to him and said they originally intended to get drunk that night but were now reconsidering.