On Jan. 22, at its scheduled meeting, the Houston County Commission honored retired Sole Commissioner Brooks Bailey of Pulaski County. Bailey had served as the sole commissioner of Pulaski County for some twelve years before retiring Dec. 31.
A proclamation of appreciation was read by Chairman Tommy Stalnaker and presented to Bailey along with a handsome pen and display case made of cherry wood from a tree in Houston County. The proclamation cited Brooks friendship and assistance to Houston County and its residents in partnering with development and subsequent expansion of the Houston County Solid Waste Disposal Facility, which borders Pulaski County in sections of the southern boundary of the facility.
Houston Countys proclamation also cited Baileys leadership in spearheading the Ocmulgee River Blueway Partnership of which Forest Walker, environmental engineer with Houston County Public Works, and I are the countys primary representatives. My wife and Stalnaker are the alternate representatives. My wife and I had met Bailey initially at one of the T-SPLOST meetings in Houston County. We were duly impressed with his sincerity, professionalism and knowledge at that time. Later, as we began the initial steps in establishing the Ocmulgee River Blueway Partnership on the invitation of Bailey, we became more enthralled with his leadership skills, dedication, enthusiasm and perseverance in merging a large segment of diverse interests into common goals, then effecting the implementation of those goals.
Fortunately, Stalnaker knew of our admiration and respect for Bailey and invited us to participate in honoring this member of our list of heroes. We thought long and hard about what we could do for him that would epitomize our feelings for his service. Finally, we settled on enlarging and framing for a wall in his retiree office one of our favorite photos taken along the Altamaha River near Darien. We selected a photo of a wildflower called Bartrams Rose (Sabatia bartramii) that was first documented in our state before the American Revolution, circa 1767, by John Bartram and his son William, who were in service as royal botanists to the then King George III. This photo is unique in that a mirror image of the beautiful flower is reflected from the waters of the spectacular Altamaha River, so we named the photo Subtle Reflections.
Additionally, we framed a smaller photo of a rare air plant, Bartrams Air Plant (Tillandsia bartramii) for Brooks desk. This plant was identified and its rarity determined by botanists with whom retired Altamaha Riverkeeper James Holland works. We photographed these two rare beauties while exploring the Altamaha River with Holland, but none of us were aware of the value of our find at the time. Actually, I photographed the Bartrams Rose early in our adventure that day but did not realize that this was the flower for which James was searching. We discovered it when we were comparing photos after our trip.
We wish Bailey a joyous retirement, while at the same time still hoping that he has time for the Ocmulgee River Blueway Partnership. We sincerely hope that these two photos bring as much peace to him as they do to us; knowing his love and respect for the Ocmulgee River, we think they will. Godspeed, Sir! You certainly deserve some rest and relaxation.
For my many friends and readers: Your comments and encouragements during the time I have done these columns have been appreciated, but it is time for me to slow down and move on. I am way behind on my fishing, there is more jelly, apple butter and salsa to be made and there is much more wildlife and wildflowers to be photographed. My wife gave me a new Sony 24.3 mega-pixel camera for Christmas and I can hardly wait for springtime on the Altamaha. So, this is my last column. Thanks to Jennifer Burk, Houston editor, for the invitation and opportunity to voice my opinions. Hope to see all of you folks at the county commission meetings.
Walton Wood lives in Kathleen. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.