McDuffie County Commissioners J. Robert "Bob" Farr and Darrell Wester are preparing to make transitions in their lives. It involves them leaving office as public officials and becoming private citizens, again.
Both men, for all practical purposes, have administered their last duties as commissioners, barring any unforeseen special meeting that could be called between now and Dec. 31 when they officially leave office.
Replacing Mr. Farr and Mr. Wester on the commission panel in January will be William "Bill" Jopling and Paul McCorkle. A special swearing in ceremony is slated for Wednesday, Jan. 7, at 9:45 a.m., according to McDuffie County Clerk Annette Findley. Both men will be sworn into office by McDuffie County Probate Judge Valerie Burley.
Mr. Farr and Mr. Wester, meanwhile, attended their last regularly scheduled monthly meeting last Tuesday night in the county courtroom in Thomson.
McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton praised both men at the conclusion of last week's commission meeting.
"Both of them have served this county admirably and I have enjoyed working with them," Mr. Newton said.
During the county's annual Christmas dinner held at the Thomson Depot the following day, Mr. Newton presented a plaque to Mr. Farr for his eight consecutive years of service as a commissioner. Mr. Wester received his plaque later since he was unable to attend because of a scheduling conflict.
"I want to thank him for a lifetime of service," Mr. Newton said of Mr. Farr, as more than 100 county employees listened. "There's his service as a commissioner, as commission chairman, as president of the Kiwanis Club and he does a whole lot for First Baptist Church."
Mr. Newton listed a few of Mr. Farr's public service highlights.
As county commission chairman for eight years prior to Joyce Blevins being elected to that post, Mr. Farr helped secure funding for many improvements at the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport. Other projects that Mr. Farr helped to spearhead in the county included a city-county agreement to spend $10,000 each for starting a recreation department. Under his leadership, land for the recreational facilities in both Thomson and Dearing was purchased. Today, those facilities are known as Sweetwater Park and Eubank Park.
"During his chairmanship, the county was required to assume responsibility of the landfill, it was mandated by the state and we had no complaints about the landfill," Mr. Newton said. "We can attribute that to his leadership. The county also assumed ambulance service at the hospital during his tenure, so the reason the EMTs have a job is because Mr. Bob started it."
Mr. Farr, who serves as president of the McDuffie County Farm Bureau, served as county commission chairman from January 1968 until the end of December 1976. At the time, he oversaw day-to-day operations of county government, because there was no county manager. As a commissioner, he served from January 2001 until present.
Mr. Farr, a retired dairy farmer, told The McDuffie Mirror during an interview last week, that he has enjoyed serving as an elected official in McDuffie County.
"I'll miss all the people," Mr. Farr said. "I may drop in occasionally."
During his time in office, he was known for saving taxpayers a lot of money through the years.
"I always thought that was one of my duties as a commissioner," Mr. Farr said. "It was important, I thought, to be as economical as possible, since the money belonged to the taxpayers of McDuffie County."
His career in public office always centered around "doing what I thought was the right thing and in the best interest of the people of McDuffie County."
The plaque to Mr. Farr reads: Thank you for your willingness to put service before self on behalf of the citizens of McDuffie County. Our community has continued to move in a positive direction as a result of your dedication and service.
Similar words of appreciation were inscribed on the plaque that later was presented to Mr. Wester, a Thomson veterinarian, who served two four-year terms on the county commission.
While serving in that capacity, Mr. Wester also was a member of the Thomson-McDuffie Water/Sewer Commission for eight years, as well as a member of the county's public safety committee. He was instrumental in securing county funds to build the Thomson-McDuffie Animal Shelter. Additionally, Mr. Wester also supported the construction of the county fire headquarters and Engine Company No. 2, located at the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport.
Mr. Wester did not seek reelection to another term on the county commission, citing business reasons for his decision.