ATLANTA (AP) — Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday named a Department of Public Safety officer as the next director of the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.

In an announcement at the agency's headquarters, Kemp tapped Capt. Chris Stallings to replace the retiring Homer Bryson, who has led the agency since 2016.

Stallings, who became a state trooper in 2008, is currently the Department of Public Safety's director of dignitary protection, which means he oversees the protection of Kemp, among others. He's a native of McCaysville.

Stallings takes over while the agency is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the middle of hurricane season.

Kemp said that Mike Smith, currently deputy director of the Georgia Emergency Communications Authority, an agency attached to GEMA, will be Stallings' chief of staff. Smith is a former police officer in Covington and Newton County.

Gov. Nathan Deal named Bryson as emergency management director in 2016. Before that, Bryson ran the state prison system for 20 months. He began his career as a conservation ranger for the Department of Natural Resources, eventually becoming deputy commissioner of the agency.

Bryson called his time at GEMA “the crowning jewel of his career.”

Stallings declined comment after the annoucement, saying he would release a statement later.