I dont know what it was about 2012 that made a number of people -- influential and talented -- call it quits.
I described one of them in my last column about John Hiscox, the retiring director of the Macon Housing Authority. This past week, the culmination of a long extra career as a Bibb County commissioner came to a final close for Elmo Richardson.
Ive not always agreed with Cuz (a greeting we coined because of our last names), but even in disagreement, weve never been disagreeable.
I didnt like his stance on road engineer Walter Kulash, and most times Elmo helped tow the Republican Party line, but we practice the kind of philosophy that believes that just because we disagreed on XYZ does not mean we cant find common ground on other issues.
Thats important because we live in a political atmosphere where people hold grudges for decades. They wont support another council persons idea (yes, I used council singularly on purpose) because of some snit they had with him or her 20 years ago. Thats one of the reasons the commission is perceived as being able to get things done and council not so much.
Granted, part of that is the system. Fifteen people can hardly get along if they are in the same family, much less members of council. Fortunately, that number will soon disappear as the new consolidated government transitions with 10 rather than 21 representatives.
As Elmo received his props during his reception Tuesday in the commission chambers from people all over the midstate -- the Houston County Commission, the mayor of Gordon and of course the Bibb commissioners hes served with among a roomful of well wishers -- you could tell the kind words spoken were not simply perfunctory. Elmos influence has been felt all over the Southeast, not just as a commissioner, but a civil engineer.
They appreciated him for being an honest straight shooter. Its pretty easy to bamboozle people who dont know what youre talking about and bury something in the ground knowing that by the time it messes up, you can be long gone, but thats not Elmo.
He brought that same trust to the Bibb commission. As chairman of the Finance Committee, he knew the countys budget as well as Debra Martin the Finance Director, and if you know Debra, thats quite a feat. Even when Elmo was upset, you hardly knew it, but when a recent Republican candidate for the commission brought Elmos reputation into question in dealing with the countys finances, he couldnt leave it sit. He wrote a piece in this paper that I think doomed the candidates chances, if he ever had any, of winning.
During the celebration of Elmos career, I found the reason he was able to stay calm and focused. No matter how old a man may get, (Elmos 76), he turns into a little boy when hes in the same room with his mother. Elizabeth, Elmos mother, was at the reception and I discovered where his twinkle comes from. You know the twinkle Im talking about. Its a brightness in the eyes that says Im still here having fun and if youre not, shame on you.
Elizabeth (I cant reveal her age to protect her modesty) has that twinkle, and believe me, her twinkle is brighter than Elmo and his brother David. With that twinkle comes a dry, understated sense of humor. Some would call it slightly devilish.
Elmo isnt beyond a practical joke every now and again. As most know, his fellow commissioner, Joe Allen, sometimes has difficulty maintaining a position on an issue, so one commission meeting, Elmo presented Allen with a pair of flip-flops.
But there is no greater example of Elmos sense of humor than the nickname given him by Marjorie Almand, the director of the Division of Family and Children Services. Where Marjorie thought of this, Ill never know, but she calls him, Cutie Pie. Well Cutie Pie, job well done, but I think Ill stick to calling you Cuz.
Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraphs editorial page editor. He can be reached at (478)744-4342 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet@crichard1020.