Amerson, late MWA chairman, memorialized in bronze

mstucka@macon.comNovember 7, 2013 

Shortly before a bust of Frank Amerson Jr. was unveiled Thursday, friends of the late Macon Water Authority chairman spoke politely about the gruff nature of the man who made the authority so successful.

Kirby Godsey, the current chairman, got chuckles when he talked about Amerson’s “dogged determination.”

“Frank would entertain fools, but he would not entertain them gladly,” he said, followed by a line about Amerson’s “unvarnished language.”

The bust’s sculptor, Mercer University graduate Julie McCraney-Brogdon, never met Amerson but heard plenty about him.

“Most of the stories told of a strong and very direct will,” she said.

The bust is located in the lobby of the authority’s Second Street offices.

By all accounts, Amerson’s determination helped the Macon Water Authority thrive. Under his leadership as chairman -- which stretched over three decades, from 1982 until his death in September 2012 -- the authority expanded service throughout unincorporated Bibb County and brought substantial services to Jones and Monroe counties, as well as the city of Byron, said Mark Wyzalek, the authority’s director of laboratory and environmental compliance.

The authority used to rely solely on water directly from the Ocmulgee River, which flooded the water plant in 1994. Amerson led the authority in building a new water plant and a massive reservoir.

He began as an authority board member in 1976.

“When he started, we had 48 million gallons per day of water treatment, and that was dependent upon the Ocmulgee River,” Wyzalek said. “At the end of his duration with the water authority, we had 60 million gallons of water treatment, expandable to 90 million gallons a day, and a state-of-the-art water treatment plant with a 6-billion-gallon reservoir on 3,000 protected acres.”

Finances improved as well. Guy Boyle, the authority’s executive vice president of business operations, said that in budget year 1984, the authority was projecting about $10.5 million in revenues and would come $1.2 million short of the money needed to pay for all its capital expenditures. Today, the authority has budgeted operating revenues of about $47.9 million and net income budgeted at about $7.4 million, Boyle said.

Amerson had a strong grasp of numbers. Several people Thursday said Amerson could beat accountants and calculators in amortizing costs over 30 years.

Longtime board member Javors Lucas started to say Amerson helped build the authority, then reconsidered.

“I think he built the whole thing,” Lucas said.

Amerson’s son, Frank Carl Amerson III, told The Telegraph he had never known anyone who was immortalized in bronze.

“It’s a great honor that people would have this much respect for him,” his son said. “This was his passion. The water authority was his family.”

The bust and a life-sized statue were commissioned for about $106,000 by the water authority. The statue will be dedicated early next year at the water plant named after Amerson. Amerson’s name is also found at Amerson River Park, which is the location of the old water plant, and on the main road through I-75 Business Park.

Cliffard Whitby, who worked with Amerson on the Macon Water Authority and the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, said Amerson “took over the (water) authority when it was in shambles, let’s be honest, and turned it into the envy” of perhaps even the country.

“Frank,” Whitby recalled, “was a man who knew where he wanted to go.”

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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