Margie Collins may not remember if she ever met Mary Walker — a former parole board member who the Board of Probation and Parole named an award in her memory — but Collins certainly knows of Walker’s reputation as someone with integrity.
Collins, the Board’s First Judicial District deputy district director, received the 2011 Mary Walker Award recently in Nashville. She’s the first recipient in Upper East Tennessee in the 24-year history of the award.
“She was a special lady that had that commitment and integrity,” Collins said of her knowledge of Walker.
“I just feel it’s an honor to have won the award. I was so appreciative, thankful and humbled.
I was very surprised when I received it,” she said.
A 27-year veteran of the department, Collins said she’s seen many people succeed on probation and turn their lives away from criminal activity.
“Sometimes you can’t help that person if they’re not willing to be helped. But if there’s a willingness there and there’s the mind-set that they want to change, because changed behavior comes from within....I’ve seen that happen more times than one,” she said.
Collins spent much of her career as a probation and parole officer throughout the district, then as a manager over other officers before being promoted to deputy district director in 2010. Her career began as an intern when she was a student at East Tennessee State University.
After graduating with a criminal justice degree, Collins went full time with the department and has been there ever since.
In those 27 years in the department, Collins has worked with law enforcement and criminal justice agencies and supervised implementation of numerous criminal justice projects, according to the department.
Board Chairman Charles Traughber said while the department’s staff is “highly competent,” the award honors the best “individuals who are dedicated to creating better communities, both at work and in their personal lives.”
Collins “richly deserves this honor,” he said in a press release.
Collins’ boss, BOPP District I Director Bob Henshaw, echoed Traughber’s comments.
“Margie Collins’ commitment to public safety and offender success is unmatched,” he said. “Her receipt of the Mary Walker Award is emblematic of her dedicated and hard work in our criminal justice community.”
Collins said she has also seen a lot of changes in what probation and parole officers do in their jobs.
“Probation and parole officers are not only just probation and parole officers monitoring that area of supervision. They’re now teaching classes and wearing various hats...they’re teaching these classes in addition to the community supervision.
“Our first and foremost goal and objective is the protection of the community and the safety issues. But at the same time we want to make a difference in the offender by changing their behavior patterns and hopefully they won’t (reoffend) and will become productive citizens,” Collins said.
Outside of work, Collins is also known for her involvement in self-betterment type programs as well.
She gives time to programs such as the Tennessee Women’s Ministries, Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness, child protection, drug awareness and other public safety issues.
A native of Mountain City, Collins now lives in Johnson City with her husband, Bryant Collins. The couple has one daughter.