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Public safety director retires after 35 years

After nearly 35 years of protecting the loveliest village on the plains, Public Safety Services Executive Director Paul Register retired from the City of Auburn at the end of January ...

After nearly 35 years of protecting the loveliest village on the plains, Public Safety Services Executive Director Paul Register retired from the City of Auburn at the end of January.

When Paul arrived in Auburn in 1986, he didn’t anticipate a decades-long career in public safety. He came to Auburn University to pursue a degree in business and took a few criminal justice classes as electives. Those classes changed his trajectory. Paul joined the Auburn Police force two years later.

Paul served as a patrol officer for a few years before beginning to rise in the ranks. He held the positions of detective, detective corporal, sergeant, lieutenant and captain before becoming assistant chief in 2010. Paul served under former Auburn Police Chief and current City Councilman Tommy Dawson before he became police chief in 2013. After seven years, Paul took over as Public Safety director in 2020.

Paul holds a bachelor’s degree in justice and public safety, a master’s in homeland security and emergency management and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy — all of which he obtained while working in Police.

Of all the roles he held, Paul most enjoyed the nearly nine years he spent in investigations. He helped solve property crimes and larger cases like the murders of Lori Ann Slesinski (2006), Lauren Burke (2008) and Aniah Blanchard (2019).

“You’re working from nothing and turning it into something,” Paul said. “There’s a satisfaction in knowing that you were able to help someone get their property back or help a loved one understand why something happened to a family member and hold those accountable who commit violent crimes.”

Auburn’s number of property crimes reached an all-time high in 2008, but after Paul, former Chief Dawson and others enhanced proactive efforts and analysis, those and other crimes have declined every year since, despite the city’s drastic growth. As police chief, Paul grew the Auburn Police force alongside Auburn’s growing population, bringing the number of officers from about 108 in 2013 to 147 by 2020.

In 2015, Paul played a major role in renegotiating the City’s contract with Auburn University to provide police services on campus, resulting in the first on-campus Auburn Police precinct in the department’s history. He implemented a new radio system for communications, assisted with construction of the new Public Safety Building and an evidence impound yard, and began a part-time officer program that has resulted in resource officers being stationed at every school in the Auburn City School system.

The most difficult time during Paul’s career was 2019 when, during two separate incidents, officers were fired upon resulting in serious injuries to three officers and the loss of Officer Will Buechner, the only Auburn Police officer to die in the line of duty.

“As difficult as it was, and has been for everyone, it has also been a source of great pride in the way staff supported and rallied around each other as well as the support they showed the affected officers and their families,” Paul said. “I have been humbled and amazed at the strength, resiliency and support of the families who suffered the most but also by the support of this community during those difficult times. You know you work for great people when they decide to name a major roadway after Will Buechner.”

One of Paul’s proudest moments in leadership was Auburn Public Safety’s work in the aftermath of the 2019 Beauregard tornado. Partnering with area first responders, more than 75 Auburn firefighters and police officers dedicated over 700 hours to search and rescue and security efforts.

“They stayed out there for days,” Paul remembered. “None of them left that very first night until they knew there was no one left in those destroyed homes.”

As he transitioned to Public Safety director, Paul’s knowledge and understanding of the Auburn Fire Department deepened as he became more involved with the department’s day-to-day operations. During Paul’s stint as director, Auburn Fire added personnel and transitioned to more full-time positions. The department is currently expanding its Advanced Life Support (ALS) capabilities to help supplement East Alabama Health’s ambulatory services.

Paul credits the longevity of his career in public safety to the people he has worked with; those he learned from; his wife, Ruth, who has been a source of constant support over the years; and all the time spent outside of work with his children and grandchildren.

After more than three decades, Paul is now looking forward to entering a new phase of his life. He plans to continue contracting work, which he has done for the last 20 years and begin a private business.

“It’s a great time to leave when the department is filled with those who can lead,” Paul said. “It’s time to step back and give others the opportunities I was afforded over the years.”

“I would not have wanted to do this work anywhere else,” he added. “People here are so supportive of our police, fire and communication’s personnel. They rally around you when something difficult happens, and they continually give you feedback. Auburn — it’s just the best community I know.”