A City in Transition

There are not many cities of any size that go through the changes that Donalsonville has seen in the past sixteen months.  By end of May, citizens will have seen a new Mayor, City Manager, Fire Chief and Police Chief.   This type of turnover can often be a sign of turmoil, but in this case, it is just the orderly transition of jobs after a long period of service.
I followed Joe Burke, who succeeded David Fain as Mayor.  There had only been two Mayors in Donalsonville for the past twenty five years before I was sworn in on December 31st of 2013.
Marty Shingler had served the city in several capacities for over 30 years, the last being as City Manager.  Marty resigned on the same day I was elected, after having given a year’s notice to the city.
Darrell Hampton replaced Shingler in April of last year and is finishing his first full year on the job.
In the next couple of weeks, Police Chief Jimmy Holt will be retiring after 42 years of law enforcement.  He retired from the Georgia State Patrol after 30 years, then was Donalsonville’s Police Chief for the next 12 years.
Fire Chief Travis Brooks will be retiring at the end of next month after over 31 years of firefighting service, including the past 21 years as Chief.
While the two new chiefs have not been announced, a thorough search has been underway for several weeks and dozens of applicants have applied for both jobs.  
It is becoming very rare to see people serve this long in these jobs.  Cities change and the makeup of their government changes as well.  Rural communities in South Georgia have had it especially hard with declining populations and budgets.  
Donalsonville is a city that is bucking the trend.  We have seen our digest grow for the past two years.  Our budget has balanced without a tax increase.  Even our school’s athletic teams have been reaching for the stars lately.  
I believe the stability of our community is due in large part to the many years of service given by our department heads and leaders that are departing.  Chief Holt and Chief Brooks have done themselves and this community proud by their work and their legacy.  They won’t be easily replaced and certainly won’t be forgotten.
City Manager Shingler left his footprints all over this town.   The sound financial footing of the city government is due in no small part to Marty partnering with the previous mayors and councils to plan for the future and spend within their means.  
Transition?  Yes, it is all over town.   Change is everywhere you look.  Our evolution is not a condemnation of the past, but rather a planned orderly adjustment for the future.
The Mayor and Council of Donalsonville are united in one goal.  They are all committed to a stable government that plans ahead, anticipates its future needs, corrects its mistakes, and seeks to improve the quality of life for everyone in the future.
These goals are made possible by the people that serve year after year behind the scenes, making things work.  People like Chief Holt and Chief Brooks.
Thank them when you see them over the next few weeks.   Their long service to this city is appreciated.  Their own transition to retirement is well deserved.  
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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