Amid tears and smiles, Commission Chairman Jim Whitehead thanked those who have helped him govern Columbia County.
Columbia County Commission Chairman Jim Whitehead takes a moment to gather himself during his final commission meeting Wednesday.
Photo by Barry Paschal
At the final regular commissioners meeting of the year, the board members took time to recognize Whitehead's eight years of service and Commissioner Frank Spears' four years of service with stories, memories and some laughs.
"Anyone who knows me, knows I'm pretty chicken when it comes to stuff like this," Whitehead said. "I tried to read this to my wife and couldn't do it."
Former Commission Chairman Pat Farr read Whitehead's remarks. "It has been a pleasure and a great honor to serve Columbia County," he read.
Whitehead thanked the other members of the board of commissioners and other elected officials for "being one great team" and thanked the residents of Columbia County "for allowing us to do the right thing." He called the Columbia County Sheriff's Department "the finest in the southeast."
"I see the pride that you all show and its great,"' Farr read.
As Farr read the final words of the letter, Whitehead wiped tears from his eyes and the audience gave him a standing ovation.
Next, Commissioner-elect Steve Brown added his comments about Whitehead - calling him a "role model."
"In our lives we are touched by the blessing of those who make a difference," Brown said. "He sets an example and raises the bar for all of us. (And) the most important thing is that this man has served the people of Columbia County."
Former Commission Chairman Pete Brodie shared a story about Whitehead from their high school days.
"When I first saw him I was a skinny, 15-year-old boy on the varsity football team at Richmond Academy. He was coming out of the varsity locker room and was the largest guy I had ever seen," Brodie said. "Years later I realized that his body had to house the largest heart in the world."
This was also the last meeting for District 2 Commissioner Frank Spears who served the county for three years. Commissioner Diane Ford said a few words about her friend and fellow commissioner.
"He never came to a meeting unprepared," Ford said.
Spears talked about having the opportunity to travel to Columbia County's sister city Novy Sacz, Poland, taking a trip to Ground Zero in New York and dining with Senators in the Senate dining hall.
"I've been given a rare opportunity to travel and meet different people," Spears said. "I think I got far more back than I could ever expect."
A dozen red roses were presented to the wives or "unseen worriers," Peggy Whitehead and Judy Spears.
Mr. Whitehead also received a gift that evening - a framed photo of himself, donning a Santa cap and riding in a red Mustang in the Christmas parade. That Mustang was later reported stolen.
"I'll cherish this and get payback for this," Whitehead said. "I've blubbered all I'm going to do. Now we'll try to do the county's business."
When Whitehead banged the gavel for the final time, it ended an era where the commission chairman was appointed by the board of commissioners. The commission chairman is now elected by voters countywide.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.