After nearly 24 years, City Attorney Jim Elliott is leaving City Hall for private practice.
Elliott, 51, submitted his letter of resignation to Mayor Donald Walker and the City Council earlier this month, requesting that they not reappoint him as city attorney for another year. His last day at City Hall is Monday.
“I never really intended to be in one job my entire career,” Elliott said.
In his role providing legal guidance to one of the fastest-growing cities in Middle Georgia, Elliott has networked with other city officials and lawyers and has become known for his local government expertise.
“I just feel like this will give me a chance to do more of that,” Elliott said of his career change.
A graduate of Georgia Tech and the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University had just two years of legal experience when he became Warner Robins’ first full-time attorney in the mid-1980s.
Henrietta McIntyre served on the City Council when Elliott was hired, and they worked together until she left elected office in 1995.
Elliott never strayed from his desire to provide city officials with accurate information and sound legal advice, she said.
“He’s been good for the city, and he’s been good for the City Council,” McIntyre said.
Elliott recalls being wet behind the ears when he accepted a job that had never even crossed his mind while he was in law school.
Now, Elliott can joke about how he appears to be an “annexation expert,” having played a critical role in Walker’s efforts to annex property into the city. In 1989, the city encompassed 11,800 acres, but today the city sprawls across 22,746 acres.
“This will be a good chance for me to spread the good word of annexation,” Elliott said.
But working for the city has allowed him to develop expertise in other areas, too, such as real estate, employment law and zoning.
“I’ve certainly learned a lot more about sewers than I ever contemplated,” he said, referring to Warner Robins’ expansion of the sewer system that led to much of the city’s annexation in recent years.
For the past 14 years, Walker has turned to Elliott as a trusted adviser. So when Elliott submitted his departure letter, Walker said he was surprised and saddened by the decision.
But the mayor said he understood why a man he considered one of the most knowledgeable people in the field of municipal law had to go.
“You can’t stand in someone’s way when they try to better themselves,” Walker said, “but he’s going to be hard to replace.”
This week, Elliott plans to clear out the numerous paperweights and coffee mugs he has collected over the years from various associations, including the Georgia Municipal Association and International Municipal Lawyer’s Association where peers have placed him in leadership positions.
The paper weights and mugs will move with him into his new office, where he will begin work Tuesday. However, he’ll be just a phone call away if the city ever needs him.
“My service to the community doesn’t end just because I won’t be here full time,” Elliott said.
To contact writer Natasha Smith, call 923-3109, extension 236.