Macon, Bibb governments get ready to dissolve as merger nears

jgaines@macon.comDecember 17, 2013 

Two political eras came to an end Tuesday, as the bodies that have governed Macon and Bibb County for more than a century held their last regular meetings.

The Bibb County Commission and the Macon City Council will formally dissolve when the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated commission is sworn in Dec. 31. They both have met on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, a pattern that will be followed by the new government.

The new Macon-Bibb government will cut the number of elected officials from 21 to 10, and three of those 10 new officials don’t hold office in either of the current governments.

“We got sent some invitation cards to a function Thursday, and it was mentioning ‘the end of an era,’’’ Bibb County Commissioner Bert Bivins said Tuesday. “I kind of thought about that today.”

Bivins, a Bibb commissioner since 1995, will become the new District 5 Macon-Bibb commissioner. The reception Thursday is a revival of an old county tradition that stopped a few years ago due to expense, he said. Those invited to Christmas receptions years ago are asked back one last time, Bivins said.

Commissioners are likely to hold one more special meeting in a few days, asking for more information on a project before voting on it, he said.

Bibb County was created in 1822, and Macon, which grew up around Fort Hawkins, was established as the county seat in 1823. Not too many decades later, there was already talk of city-county consolidation, but voters rejected it several times in the past century.

Finally, the issue passed with 58 percent of the vote in a July 2012 referendum, and the new Macon-Bibb government is scheduled to start with the new year in a couple of weeks.

Looking back the furthest is Ed DeFore, now elected to a three-year term as District 6 commissioner after 42 consecutive years on Macon City Council.

“It’s good to have been a part of this Macon history -- a part of the old one and a part of the new one,” he said.

When DeFore first took office, then-Mayor Ronnie Thompson enlisted him to push for paving many of the remaining dirt streets in the city, DeFore said. He’s proud of legislation on disability issues, security cameras for stores and recreation centers. Now that his district has changed to cover much of the western and southern ends of Bibb County, DeFore said he wants to work with political newcomer Scotty Shepherd, District 7 commissioner-elect, to build recreation centers in the Lizella and Sub-South areas.

The longest-serving Bibb commissioner is Joe Allen, who lost a bid for the mayor’s office and won’t serve in the new government.

“I was just a few months shy of 20 years,” he said. “It’s bittersweet, but it’s probably good. I supported consolidation. I had people ask me, was I willing to give up my seat if they voted for consolidation? And I told them yes, and I was.”

But Allen does plan to run for a seat in three years, he said. Allen’s proudest of his work to establish the park at Lake Tobesofkee, which the new government will oversee.

He’s seen many Bibb commissioners come and go. In fact, all those he served with during his first term are dead, Allen said.

“The one thing that will make me sad tonight: I will take down the Ten Commandments that Judge Taylor Phillips gave me,” Allen said Tuesday. Phillips, who became a Bibb County State Court judge in 1964, died in 2012.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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