8. High-ranking retirements: The past year marked major milestones in the number of high-ranking Lowndes County and Valdosta officials retiring or announcing their retirements.
After serving 51 years with the Lowndes County Clerk of Superior Court office, and 30 years serving as the clerk of court, Sara Crow announced she would not seek reelection in 2012. “Sara is, in my opinion, the living definition of a great public servant,” retired Southern Circuit Judge H. Arthur McLane said in 2011. “She demands the best from her staff, but she also demands the best from herself.” With the end of the year, she officially retired.
After serving 40 years as the Lowndes County Juvenile Court judge, Wayne Ellerbee announced he would retire from the position. Known for his no-nonsense approach, he could be as tough on parents as he could be on the juveniles facing charges in his court. Ellerbee retired this past fall.
After 16 years as Lowndes County sheriff and the past four as the Lowndes County Commission chairman, Ashley Paulk opted not to run for office in 2012. “Lowndes County has been blessed with a great public servant,” Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said during a recent farewell reception for Paulk. His retirement from 20 years of public service became official Monday, Dec. 31.
Since August 1995, Frank Simons has served as Valdosta’s police chief. This week, his tenure as the Valdosta Police Department’s top law-enforcement officer is expected to come to an end as Simons retires after 41 years in police work. During his 17-plus years in Valdosta, he reorganized the police force and led the VPD to becoming a nationally accredited department.
9. VSU presidents: Valdosta State University welcomed a new president early in 2012 while bidding farewell to a former president.
In July, Dr. William McKinney became VSU’s latest president following the year-long tenure of beloved Interim President Dr. Louis Levy. With degrees in chemical engineering, history and philosophy of science, McKinney served four years as vice-chancellor for Academic Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University prior to the Georgia Board of Regents selecting him as VSU’s new president.
In early October, former VSU President Dr. Hugh Bailey passed away. He was 83. Bailey served as Valdosta State president from 1978-2001. During this tenure, Bailey led the transition from Valdosta State being a college to achieving university status, fielded the first Blazers football team, and set the stage with academic programs and structures such as the University Center which VSU knows today.
“Every president leaves his or her unique mark in a university’s history,” McKinney said at the time of Bailey’s passing. “It is rare, however, to find a mark so transformative as President Bailey’s. Dr. Bailey’s legacy on our campus is apparent not only in its physical structure, but also in its spirit of strong community that we all value so highly. He set the high standard against which all future VSU presidents have been judged, and for his vision and leadership I will always be thankful.”