Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

December 15, 2012

‘Brick-breaking’ marks end of Paulk’s career

VALDOSTA — As one of the last acts of his four-year term as chairman of the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners and his 20-year career as an elected official, Ashley Paulk hosted the official “brick-breaking” ceremony marking the beginning of demolition of the annex behind the Lowndes County Courthouse.

Valdosta civic leader Joanne Griner was given the first opportunity to chip out a block of bricks, which were pre-cut for the ceremony, and Commissioner Richard Raines took up the wedge and hammer next, followed by Paulk’s grandchildren and others in attendance.

Griner spoke about how another civic leader, the late Louie White, always wished for the removal of “the bump on the courthouse,” Griner said. She expressed regret that White was not alive to see its demolition and removal.

Paulk joked in his speech that the county “didn’t have money to build anything, so we decided to tear something down” and that the annex “doesn’t fit really well with the courthouse.”

After the ceremony, Paulk was given a reception to show the community’s appreciation of his service.

“Ashley has done a lot of great things for the county,” Valdosta Mayor John Gayle said at the reception. “He will be missed.”

Gayle agreed that Paulk has always had a strong personality, but that “you have to respect that.”

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens attended the event to give a warm send-off to Paulk, whom he called a friend, and presented him with a written commendation for his service.

“Lowndes County has been blessed with a great public servant,” Olens said.

Chairman-elect Bill Slaughter, who will take Paulk’s seat Jan. 1, could not make the reception, but he was there in spirit. He sent a letter with County Manager Joe Pritchard with warm words about following Paulk, which Pritchard read to the audience.

“He has been one of the finest leaders Lowndes County has ever had,” Slaughter wrote. “I have only one request. Please don’t change your cell phone number; I’ll probably need it.”

Pritchard addressed the audience with his own words of appreciation, saying that Paulk has “helped keep the county in a financially stable state” throughout his career. Pritchard gave Paulk a commemorative rocking chair inscribed with the county seal and Paulk’s name — what he called a traditional gift for retiring county chairmen — as well as a box of dog biscuits for Paulk’s dog.

Paulk had words of his own for those who served with him, and said he had always wanted to serve. Even as sheriff, he learned that “10 percent of people (charged with crimes) are bad, and 90 percent are good people who have made bad mistakes.

“You’re not a good sheriff, or a good commission chair; you have a great staff,” he said. “I’m going to miss everybody.”

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