Former Macon Mayor Tommy Olmstead was a hard-nosed businessman, tight-fisted with taxpayers money and prone to losing his temper and using colorful language, friends said at his funeral Saturday, but he also had another side.
The Rev. Laudis Rick Lanford, who officiated the service, told a story about Olmstead he said no one else knows.
From time to time, Lanford said, he would run into to Olmstead at a restaurant or grocery store, and the man who also served as Bibb Commission chairman, state senator and head of the Georgia Department of Human Resources would thrust a $100 bill at him with tears in his eyes.
Hed say Rick, take this to so and so and help them out, but whatever you do dont let them know it came from me, Lanford said. He was a good man.
One of the speakers was Kate Pfirman, who worked as a finance officer for Olmstead when he was mayor of Macon and also when he later became head of the Department of Human Resources.
She recalled when she was considering taking an internal auditor position with the city while Olmstead was mayor in 1992, she asked a city employee what he was like.
She said, He understands that there is more to life than work, that family is more important than work, he expects you to work hard, and, oh, hes just as tight as Dicks hat band.
When the city and county were negotiating sales tax redistribution while Olmstead was mayor, Pfirman said he lost his temper in the first two meetings. After council members told him he was hurting the negotiations, he promised not to lose his temper at the next meeting.
A co-worker tried to bet Pfirman $20 that Olmstead would fail in that promise.
I said No, I dont like to lose money, she said, and added that Olmstead did, in fact, lose his temper again at the next meeting.
But she also said he had a good sense of humor and a kind heart.
Other than my parents ... Tommy has had the most influence on my life, she said.
Olmsteads political career began in 1976 when he was elected to the Bibb County Board of Commissioners and named chairman of the finance committee. He formed the countys first finance department, and hired certified public accountant Bill Vaughn to run it.
It didnt take me long to figure out he was a hard-nosed businessman who took his job as chairman of the finance committee very seriously, Vaughn said.
When Olmstead took office, Vaughn said, the county was more than a $1 million in the red. By the time Olmstead left, the county had a positive fund balance and had built up a reserve fund.
The citizens of this community should be thankful that we had a person of Tommys caliber come in and stabilize the finances of the county, Vaughn said. He was a gentleman.
Olmstead was 83 when he died Wednesday at a Macon hospital, where he had been in intensive care since June 7.
Olmstead served two terms in the Georgia Senate before leaving that post to run successfully for mayor of Macon in 1991. He served in that job until 1995 when he left, at then-Gov. Zell Millers request, to head the Department of Human Resources. In 2000 he was elected Bibb County commission chairman, then he retired in 2004.
This community is going to miss Tommy, Vaughn said. He was famous for being a good politician, but more than anything he was a good businessman and he believed in doing what was right.
The service, which included the Bibb County Sheriffs Office Honor Guard, was held at Vineville United Methodist Church. He was buried at Riverside Cemetery.