Thomson-McDuffie County now has a Clean and Beautiful Commission, but the job of its three-member beautification committee will be to carry out the work started by one woman, Audrey Eller.
Eller was Thomson's city clerk for 27 years, and when she retired in 1992, she took on the job of beautifying the city she loves.
"The beautification of Thomson, Georgia, has been a one-person program," City Administrator Bob Flanders said. "This is a lady that's shown leadership and dedication beyond the normal bounds. She's made a big difference in how the place looks just by her sheer perseverance and the talent that she brings."
With a wide-brimmed, straw hat and gardening gloves shielding her from the perils of the great outdoors, Eller can be seen working in the heat of summer or the cold of winter, replacing bulbs and annuals that bloom along the city streets.
"I just do it because I enjoy doing it," Eller said. "When I retired I said I wanted to do something for the city, so I started doing a little bit and it just kept growing."
And, to keep the momentum going, the Clean Community Commission coalesced last year and the beautification committee cranked up this spring, working to spruce up the area.
"She's just a celebrity," said Carolyn Gilbert, director of Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce, a master gardener and a member of the beautification committee. "When she quits doing this, we've got to have a program in place. We've got to have people to keep the ball rolling."
Under Eller's direction, committee members and city employees toiled and tilled side-by-sideto complete a beautification project at the city's Westview Cemetery. Now they have moved on to the Depot where they are refurbishing Monument Square. They are trying to soften the area's appearance with grass and flowers rather than concrete.
The Monument Square project is the first step of a major effort by the city to add green appeal to the downtown area. Ultimately, the plan is to add large planters along the sidewalk which will hold crepe- myrtles, flowers and greenery, Flanders said.
Audrey Eller (left), a retired city clerk works with members of beautification committee to help keep Thomson blooming.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"She's (Eller) currently providing us with advice and the vision of what we can do to make it better, and we will be working through her to implement those ideas," he said.
The most visible of Eller's handiwork is an island at Jackson and E. Hendrick streets near the Depot. There an oasis of grass carpet grows green, framing a crescent shape bed of orange and yellow day lillies, red salvia and a colorful explosion of petunias.
Eller also maintains the rose garden at City Hall. The county recently enlisted her help to landscape the courthouse, and across the street, she and other committee members and municipal workers have started their latest project to fluff up the landscaping at the Thomson-McDuffie County Library.
Being a chamber executive, Gilbert knows the value of curb appeal.
"It just enhances the community and builds the spirit and pride," she said. "If you make it pretty they'll come, and if they don't, it will be pretty anyway."
It's a fact that makes Eller a priceless asset.
"When a place is kept, clean, landscaped and orderly, it's a better place to do business, a better place to live," Flanders said.
And, with two of the South's major nurseries located in McDuffie County, what Thomson-McDuffie County could be is only limited by manpower and resources.
"If we had a community full of Audrey Ellers I can't begin to tell you how gorgeous this place would be," Flanders said.
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