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Community gathers to honor retiring Thomson Mayor

They came from various parts of Georgia to pay tribute to a man who has given so much of himself through public service - Thomson Mayor Bob Knox Jr.

The remarks were paid to Mr. Knox during a special ceremony Sunday at the Thomson Depot honoring him for his 34 years of service as a councilman and mayor to the citizens of Thomson. His tenure as mayor spanned nearly three decades - from 1979 through 2007. Prior to becoming mayor, Mr. Knox served on city council for four years.

A number of well-known area politicians, including Georgia House of Representatives Majority Whip Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), state Rep. Sistie Hudson, Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, state Sen. Bill Jackson (R-Appling) and Social Circle Mayor Jim Burgess attended the three-hour farewell ceremony. Several other local elected and past officials, as well as the current and former city administrators, also were in attendance. Several city workers and residents also came out on the rainy day to honor the longtime outgoing mayor.

Mayor Burgess, former executive director of the Georgia Municipal Association, said Mr. Knox could have aspired to become a state representative, senator or even governor.

Instead, Mr. Knox chose rather to be a public servant to the people of Thomson. Mr. Burgess even alluded to the possibility that Mr. Knox could have been elected president of the United States, referring back to the day when Jimmy Carter served as president from Georgia.

"He's a very efficient person," said Mr. Burgess of his longtime friend, Mr. Knox, who was elected president of the GMA back in 1983 - the same year that Mr. Burgess took over as executive director. "He's a man of few words. He was one of the best leaders I've ever had the pleasure of working with in my life."Mr. Burgess said he often wondered like many people throughout the state why Mr. Knox never sought higher political office.

He remembered Mr. Knox's reply to such a possibility: simply not interested.

"Bob was more than pleased to serve the people of Thomson," added Mr. Burgess. "He felt compassionate about having that honor."

Rep. Fleming agreed that Mr. Knox could have easily served as a higher political official.

"Mr. Knox's legacy stretches across the State of Georgia," said Mr. Fleming. "He's served on so many state boards through the years and has given so much of his time towards bettering local government across the state - not just Thomson. Bob Knox has been a leader. His efforts to make local government function more efficiently have been a cornerstone for others to follow.

"He has a great ability in knowing how to get people to work together."

Mr. Burgess said Mr. Knox was responsible for spearheading a building fund for GMA, which in the long run helped save GMA $130,000 in rental fee of a building. He also was responsible for a number of major legislative and appropriations changes in Georgia.

"I sure have enjoyed this time," Mayor Knox told the estimated 250 people who attended the special ceremony in his honor. "I appreciate all of you being here."

Mr. Knox said he felt honored to have served as mayor of a local governing body that always attempted to work together for the common good of everybody.

"It's been a real labor of love to be your mayor in Thomson," said Mr. Knox, noting he believes that city and county government officials will continue to work together.

"All of you have meant so much to me," he added, choking back tears.

Following Mr. Burgess's comments, Mr. Knox's three daughters, Dottie, Laura and Mary Ann, quickly put on blue T-shirts, which read: "Please re-elect Bob Knox Jr. mayor." They each made comments about their Daddy.

Dottie, Mr. Knox's youngest daughter, described her Daddy as one of the most faithful and compassionate people she's ever known.

Laura, the middle daughter, said her Daddy was "an amazing leader."

Mary Ann, the oldest of the daughters, meanwhile, said of her Daddy that he is one of the most generous men she's ever known. She said Mr. Knox had always been a generous man whether monetary or otherwise and supportive of the Boy Scouts, Golden Harvest Food Bank and other charities.

Mary Ann also said Mr. Knox had been a lay leader for more than 20 years at First United Methodist Church in Thomson and that when he came home from his law office and serving as mayor, he simply was their Daddy.

One of the closest political relationships ever established on the local front was between Mr. Knox and former McDuffie County Commission Chairwoman Joyce Blevins, another one of those who addressed the crowd.

Mrs. Blevins, who shared a number of humorous stories about Mr. Knox, said the mayor was a man who knew all the important players - those in government roles and those who help Thomson and McDuffie County get funding for various local projects.

The relationship between the two spanned from the beginning of Mrs. Blevins' tenure as chief elected official of the county through the present time - now that Charlie Newton is commission chairman.

Today, Mr. Knox considers the joint working relationship between city and county government leaders as one of the highlights of his time as mayor.

Mrs. Blevins, who later was elected president of the Georgia County Commissioner's Association, said of Mr. Knox, "His heart has always been here in Thomson and McDuffie County, and we have all benefited."

She also pointed out how fortunate the residents of both the city and county have been through the years having had so many of Mr. Knox's family members give of themselves to help make Thomson and McDuffie County the kind of place it is today.

Thomson Mayor-elect Kenneth Usry, who has known Mr. Knox for 50 years and served on city council with him for 29 years, extended a heartfelt "Thank You" to Mr. Knox for his years of dedicated and loyal public service to the people of Thomson.

Web posted on Thursday, January 03, 2008

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