Dennis O. Trudeau has stepped down as Grovetown's mayor two decades after taking the oath of office.
Though he is credited with leading the city out of an era of turmoil and into a period of booming growth, Trudeau still greets conversations about his achievements with humility.
"I haven't done hardly enough for the city," Trudeau said. "My goodness gracious, there's so much to be done. I got a few sidewalks in, a couple of roads paved, a couple of grants, but there is so much to be done."
Trudeau, 82, took over the mayoral office in January 1988. The city's bickering leadership had earned Grovetown an unproductive stigma, Trudeau said.
"It was known as Recall City all over the state. They (city leaders) just couldn't get along with each other," Trudeau said. As a result, the then-recent civil service retiree decided to run for the mayoral seat.
"Not only was the city divided by different groups, it just wasn't moving forward -- it was moving backward," Trudeau said. "And Grovetown was the laughingstock of the county and the state."
When Trudeau, a Canadian and U.S. Army veteran of World War II, stepped into office, the city comprised nearly 2,000 residents, and a city council member could be elected into office with as few as 75 votes, Trudeau said.
The man who many credit with changing the city's image to one of growth and balance left his last city council meeting Dec. 10 with a bow and his nameplate sticking out of his chest pocket. He calmly told others goodbye as he headed home to his wife, Mary Ann.
"Twenty years is a long time. I know what it is like," said Trudeau's wife, who spent 18 years as a city mayor and city council member, in addition to being a former justice of the peace and county planning commissioner. "I couldn't make it 20; I had to get out. But I'm glad he did."
Trudeau received a send-off at the city's annual employee luncheon Dec. 20 at Liberty Park Community Center. Newly appointed city administrator Shirley Beasley and all city employees presented Trudeau with a golf trip to Hickory Knob State Park, gift certificates to Academy Sports and Outback restaurant, and a clock and plaque for his "timeless service and tireless commitment."
"We appreciate you," said Beasley, who has worked with Trudeau his entire term. "We really do."
Representatives from U.S. Rep. Paul Broun's office presented Trudeau with framed copies of a speech submitted for the U.S. House of Representatives for his "courage, dedication and strength," and a certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for his "outstanding and invaluable service."
Scott Patterson, the president of the Builders Association of Metro Augusta, told Trudeau that his vision and direction have contributed greatly to the city's substantial growth.
Trudeau insisted on sharing the credit.
"It is not just me," Trudeau said during the employee luncheon. "It is these people sitting here in chairs that are responsible for all of this. ... All of you deserve the credit, because everyone knows one person can't do everything."
Trudeau brought that team attitude with him to the mayor's office.
"All the members of council we have now, they work together for a common cause -- for the betterment of the city," Trudeau said.
"As long as you work together for the betterment and disregard what your own personal agenda is, you can get things done. People working together, there's nothing they can't do."
As Trudeau later packed up from the office he's occupied since the city hall building was built in 2003, he recalled some special moments of his tenure.
He vividly remembers the first state Department of Transportation contract he secured to widen, pave and add sidewalks to Katherine Street. The more than $400,000 contract was the first of many Trudeau was able to get.
"When I found out it was so easy to do that, then I'd go back and go back," Trudeau said. "I got Haynie Drive paved. I got sidewalks on Robinson Avenue. We got a bunch of work done."
Trudeau said he's particularly proud of the Memorial Wall, built last year in front of city hall. Another landmark moment in his career is the construction of the Grovetown Middle and Cedar Ridge Elementary schools.
During his 20 years, Trudeau said he has kept an open-door policy. "This place is for the citizens and it belongs to them," he said.
Many people have come through those doors in search of assistance. Trudeau said he always helped if possible, or at least put them in contact with someone who could.
Trudeau said the current city council members and newly elected ones will continue the tradition of teamwork and lead the city into its next phase.
He added that he feels comfortable passing the mayoral seat on to George James, a former city council member elected as Trudeau's successor in November.
"I'm sure George will do a great job, because he is a fine Christian man and he will do what's right," Trudeau said.
Despite the active retirement lifestyle he has planned, Trudeau said he's always available to help city leaders. In fact, he plans to stay on to see some current projects through.
Trudeau said retirement will include working the shank out of his golf swing, traveling with his wife and a huge "honey-do" list.
" 'Thank you' doesn't seem to be the right words to say," Trudeau said to those with whom he has worked during the past two decades. "My vocabulary is very small. Thank you is all I know. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
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