We wish Valdosta Mayor John Gayle well in all his future endeavors and thank him for his service to our town.
Gayle came into office during challenging times, and he faced his share of hurdles during that time.
He was able to lead the city through one of the most massive infrastructure improvement projects in its history and helped to secure the necessary funding for it.
Gayle has always had the courage of his convictions and did not shrink from saying exactly what he thought, whether it was popular or not, and that is something you just have to respect.
We did not always agree with the mayor.
And no one should expect the media and government to always be on the same page.
However, when there was something John Gayle disagreed with, he would call and have a conversation about it.
Sometimes he would ask us to come visit with him and staff at city hall and have an open and candid conversation.
Other times, he would stop by the the newspaper.
In a world of government doublespeak where people will say one thing to your face and another behind your back, Gayle's forthrightness and willingness to just sit down and talk are commendable qualities and, frankly, a breath of fresh air.
He is a man who says what he means and means what he says.
Whether you agree with the man, or disagree with him, you always know where you stand with him.
Gayle also doesn't seem to hold a grudge. He can adamantly disagree with you one day and then see you out in public the next day, shake your hand and engage in cordial conversation.
There were times when we saw things differently, and he wanted to make sure his voice was heard. But, instead of just complaining, we suggested he address the community directly in a personal column to be published in the newspaper, and he took us up on it.
We respect that. Others might complain but they won't put their name to it.
Gayle always did.
The City of Valdosta gave him a nice sendoff this past week, and he has just a little time left in his administration.
It was noticeable how genuine city staff was when saying their farewells to the two-term mayor, and their thoughtful words and gestures spoke volumes. It was also noticeable how moved he was by their kind gestures.
Incoming Mayor Scott Matheson will face a lot of challenges, just as Gayle did during his tenure. Matheson would do well to learn as much as he can from the mayor and lean on his experience whenever possible.
We feel certain that while John Gayle is retiring from office, that he will continue to be a visible, and important, voice in our community.
Not everyone is well-suited for public office. Not everyone has the mettle to serve as long as Gayle has served.
He should be commended for doing what so many others fail to do and that is serve. Instead of merely complaining about what local government does or does not do, Gayle threw his hat in the ring and then stepped into the fire and withstood the heat that others avoid.
Thank you, John Gayle, for your service to our community.