What Makes Ronnie Roll: Meet APD Chief Anthony Pressnell

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Whenever Mayor Marks is out of town on a Monday, he gives “his” column space to someone else who works for the City of Athens. While Athens Police Department Chief Pressnell has worked in our law enforcement ranks for 40-plus years, he has only been chief since October of 2023, following the retirement of former APD Chief Floyd Johnson.

For years, I referred to now-Chief Pressnell as “Captain P.” I would see him on the first and third Thursday of the month when I would deliver Athens Now to the Hometown Grocery store down on Jefferson Street. I would greet him with my standard joke, delivered in a British accent hopefully reminiscent of Downton Abbey: “Your paper, sir, and I shan’t fetch your slippers.” We would laugh, briefly talk about all kinds of things, and having him there always made me feel safe; still does. Even after he became chief, our new “Top Cop” still picks up a shift at Hometown because he wants to stay in touch with the people of Athens. It’s pretty easy to tell when someone does their job out of love when they work a shift just to stay in touch. In other interviews, “Big A,” as he has always been known, makes it clear that he has no plans to just stay in the office all day.

There have been tough moments in our town during Big A’s career. He was on the force when Officers Mims and Russell were shot and killed while responding to a call. He rode in the back of the ambulance with City Councilman Frank Travis after Frank’s tragic accident. By contrast, City Councilman Jimmy Gill would always come into Hometown on Sunday mornings and make Big A’s day. During this interview, we talked about how much we miss these guys.

Chief Pressnell was willing to meet with a member of the community after one of our town’s encounters with a mental health-related shooting. The person had questions, and Big A was willing to “stop for the one.” Turns out that it wasn’t necessary, but the community member was comforted that the chief would make time for a discussion based on mutual respect and understanding.

When we met, our town was freshly in the throes of another tragedy, which I addressed in this edition’s Publisher’s Point, and when I asked him what his greatest concerns were, he quickly said, “Drugs and mental health.” I also know that dealing with the problem of human trafficking is a priority.

I asked Chief Pressnell to tell me about one of his most memorable cases, and without hesitation, it was “collaring” a man that had kidnapped and raped a 14 year-old girl. The perpetrator went away for a solid 25 years, and Chief was satisfied that justice indeed had been served.

With regard to our challenges with drugs in our area, Chief Pressnell wanted to thank our Limestone County Sheriff’s Office for forming a joint task force to work the problem together. “They have been great to work with,” he said. I asked him what he feels is the most important value to live out as police chief, and he said, quickly, “Treat people with respect.” I believe Big A walks the talk, and I am glad he is “on the wall” keeping us safe.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner