PERRY — Jim Worrall set out in 1989 with a list of 16 bulleted items to accomplish as Perry’s mayor.
Among them were building the Perry Parkway, establishing a community center and revitalizing the old Perry High School building.
When he decided this year not to seek re-election, it was because every bullet on that list had been checked off.
And, Worrall said, that meant it was time for a new vision for the city.
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“I just felt it was time for some fresh ideas and a new face in City Hall,” said Worrall, who will be succeeded by Jimmy Faircloth in January.
A group of residents first approached Worrall in 1988 with the idea that he run for mayor. Worrall, then an educator eyeing retirement, figured it would be a good way to give back to the city.
“At the time, nobody had really committed to run,” he said.
Before he knew it, there were four people in the race. He became mayor after coming in second in the general election and besting a longtime city councilman in the runoff.
From there, he said, work began on the plans to build a name for the little city that could. Building a good rapport with state officials was key to the city’s success, Worrall said.
“I became an ambassador for the city,” he said. “I was told early on you need to learn who’s in the General Assembly. You need to go up there and see them enough so that they call you by your first name.”
All it took, he said, was a few years dropping off peaches and pecans and talking shop with the legislators. When the city needed anything, such as a grant to help build the community center, it was received.
“I’m most proud of the community center,” he said of the facility off Keith Road in Rozar Park. “We had to work very hard to get it.”
At the time, Worrall said, state assistance was vital to getting a new community center built. And with the city’s center at the time being house in a trailer, building one was necessary. That’s where the idea of using part of the space for the Older Americans Council came in.
“They were meeting at a former gas station, and I hated to see them go in there every day,” he said. “We worked out a deal with the state ... and ended up with a nice community center.”
During his 21 years in office, the city doubled its population to just about 14,000 residents and expanded beyond its former borders. But, Worrall said, the old city is still there. Literally.
“If you fly over, you’ll see the road we built that puts the old town in a circle,” he said. “The new growth is happening, but out on the fringes. We were able to maintain what the older citizens wanted while, at the same time, providing for the new families.”
His hopes for the new mayor and council, which will begin work in about a week, is that they take the time to learn the issues as a group and “stay real steady in that boat” before striking out to make any major changes.
And, he said, he hopes they continue to have open dialogue with other officials in Centerville, Warner Robins and in the county.
“They’ve got to be real careful that they don’t think they’re something better than that,” he said. “We created this dialogue where we talked out our problems. The cooperation that exists here, everybody in the state of Georgia talks about. It’s not like this anywhere else.”
Leaving City Hall, Worrall says his only regret is that the city’s recreation department could have been given more attention. But the rest of his memories are filled with achievements he says should be visible for a time to come.
“I get the self-satisfaction knowing that I’ve done some good things for the community,” said Worrall. “A lot of people thought I was crazy because I did all of this on a full-time basis and only got paid part-time. I went into this for the service part of it. I felt I owed my community something.
“I never thought it would be 21 years, though.”
To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.