Governor Nathan Deal - Georgia’s 82nd Governor (2011-2019)

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Deal appoints Buckner to head Juvenile Justice

November 7, 2011

Commissioner Howell moves to Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities as counsel

Gov. Nathan Deal announced today that he has appointed Gale Buckner as the new commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice. Amy Howell, current commissioner at DJJ, will take the role as general counsel at the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

Upon Buckner’s succession to DJJ, James Mills will take her place on the State Board of Pardons and Paroles effective immediately. Deal named Mills to the board in September.

“As the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities implements the state’s settlement with the federal Department of Justice, I wanted to put Commissioner Amy Howell’s experience and skill set to work on that important task,” Deal said. “Commissioner Frank Shelp and I are excited that she has agreed to take on this job. The timing of this has worked out great as it comes near the end of Gale Buckner’s tenure on Pardons and Paroles. Gale Buckner has given the state years of excellent service, and she boasts an impressive resume in law enforcement. I appreciate her willingness to take on this new role.”

Gale Buckner, commissioner, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice

Buckner currently serves on the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. She was appointed to the board by former Gov. Sonny Perdue in January 2005. She served as chair of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2010, and as vice chair from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2008.

Buckner was appointed in July 2000 as executive director of the Governor’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. She served in this position until her appointment to the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Buckner also served with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation starting in 1981, in which she served as assistant special agent-in-charge of the Atlanta field office for death investigations, child abuse, fraud and other criminal activities. 

Buckner currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange. She is a member of the Association of Paroling Authorities International, the National Criminal Justice Association, the FBI National Academy Associates, the International Association of Women Police, the Parole Association of Georgia, and the Peace Officers Association of Georgia. She received Crisis Responder national certification in 2003 from the National Organization for Victim Assistance.

Buckner earned a bachelor’s degree in urban life at Georgia State University and a Master of Public Administration from Brenau University. She is a graduate of the FBI National Academy’s 169th Session and was a delegate to Israel in 2003 for the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange program. She has also served as an adjunct professor, teaching classes in Criminal Justice and Management at Georgia State University, Mercer University and St. Francis University.

Buckner resides in Chatsworth and is an active member of the Holly Creek Baptist Church.

Amy Howell, general counsel, Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

Appointed in January 2011, Howell was the first female commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice. Howell joined the agency in 2005 as the Legal Services director and was appointed deputy commissioner a year later. Prior to her appointment as commissioner, she served in several capacities and managed nearly every portion of the agency, including legal services, human resources, training, internal investigations, apprehensions, transportation, education, and medical and behavioral health.

Outside of DJJ, Howell has served as the managing attorney for the Southern Juvenile Defender Center (SJDC) at Emory School of Law. She received a post-graduate Equal Justice Works fellowship to work at SJDC.

Howell is active in a number of professional organizations, including serving on the State Bar of Georgia Board of Governors. She is also involved with the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys and Georgia Association for Women Lawyers. Howell is a former president of the State Bar of Georgia Young Lawyers Division and, during her presidency, created an award-winning Public Interest Internship Program that connected young lawyers with not-for-profit organizations in need of legal counsel.

Howell was recently appointed to the Advisory Committee for the Office of the Child Advocate for the Protection of Children and also serves on the Advisory Board of the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic at Emory School of Law. She is a 2008 Alumna of LEAD Atlanta and 2009 Multiple Sclerosis Leadership Class. Prior to her legal career, Howell taught elementary school working with special needs and gifted children in North Carolina, where she was recognized as `Teacher of the Year.’

Howell holds a bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College and a law degree from the Temple University School of Law. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two young children.