District 4 residents will have start looking for a new representative on the Columbia County Board of Commissioners.
Mark Devoti resigned as the commissioner representing District 4 on Friday. Devoti also resigned from his management position at Georgia Iron Works on Thursday to accept a similar position with a company based in Hampton, Va. He left the area Saturday to begin work tomorrow.
Chairman Ron Cross read a letter of resignation he received Tuesday from Devoti during a public works committee meeting.
"It's with a sad heart that we're going to have to let you go," Commissioner Diane Ford told Devoti after hearing his letter.
"I wish you well," Cross said. "You've got an opportunity to better your life and that of your family's. This is secondary compared to that."
County Attorney Doug Batchelor said the county will have to hold a special election to fill the vacancy left by Devoti.
Columbia County Commissioner Mark Devoti (left) talks to Mark Wills (center), chairman
of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, and Marc Willis, of Regions Bank, during a reception in his honor. Devoti resigned to accept a job in Virginia.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
When a commissioner's seat is vacated, county ordinances mandate a 60-day filing period for candidates to come forward, Cross said. Since the filing period extends beyond the traditional November election date, he said he thinks the county will hold the special election during the March primaries.
Serving on the board of commissioners for a year, Devoti was voted into office in a 2002 in another special-called election to replace Barry Fleming, who resigned to serve in the state Legislature.
Fleming came to the commissioners in 1999 when he ran unopposed in a special election to replace Lee Brooks, who, like Devoti, resigned because of a job move.
When elections are held, that commissioner's seat will have been shuffled between four different people in the past five years.
To win his seat, Devoti defeated Tony Mundy for the county seat by a 2-1 margin. He also defeated Peggy Lichtenberg during a primary election.
Mundy said this week that he will not try to replace Devoti, but Lichtenberg said she is considering making a run for the vacated commissioner's seat.
"If I run, it's because I want to try and help Columbia County," Lichtenberg said.
Currently living outside of District 4 in Westlake, Lichtenberg said she is renovating a home in Grovetown and intends to move there once it is completed. She said she plans to move in the next few weeks to be closer to her equestrian business at Canterbury Trails. Her residency became an issue in the last election when she was not living in District 4 at the time of campaign.
At the urging of Devoti, Grovetown City Councilman George James also said he is contemplating making a run for the open commissioner's slot.
"I'm seriously leaning toward running," the 47-year-old said Thursday. "Mark came and talked to me about running before he announced it to anyone else.
"I've gotten several phone calls. The mayor of Grovetown has talked to me, and the mayor of Harlem has been calling me and urging me in that direction."
James served on Grovetown's city council from 1988 to 1991. He is in the middle of his second term.
District 4 is the county's largest district in terms of area, and it encompasses the county's only municipalities - Grovetown and Harlem. Devoti served as chairman of the Community and Emergency Services Committee and vice-chairman of the Public Works Committee.
"He was doing a great job for his district," said Grovetown Mayor Dennis Trudeau. "A lot of people are going to really miss him because he was really putting a lot of effort into getting his district's roads paved and things like that. He's helped out the city considerably since taking office."
Prior to serving on the board of commissioners, Devoti was a Grovetown city councilman for eight years.
"I want to offer my apologies for not being their for (my constituents), but this was too good of an opportunity," Devoti said about his decision to move. "I just couldn't say no to it."
Devoti is a 20-year resident of Grovetown with his wife and three sons, two of whom are attending Harlem High School.
"Mark was a good solid commissioner who was handicapped by his job," Cross said. "He couldn't get away for a lot of things because of his schedule, but he was always informed. He studied the issues and knew them thoroughly. He was a good representative for his district and he'll be missed."
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