Jimmy Autry won’t be around to swim in the natatorium that Houston County’s proposed special projects sales tax would build or drive on the roads it would widen, but he is leading the effort to get it passed.
Autry, the spokesman for Flint Energies for the past 18 years, will retire next November. He is moving to Rock Hill, South Carolina, to be near his grandchildren and the transition is well under way.
His wife has already moved to their new home, along with most of their furniture, and Autry goes there on the weekends. His car now has a South Carolina license plate and he has even moved his voter registration there.
So he won’t be able to vote in the special purpose local option sales tax referendum March 21. Yet, he agreed to chair the committee that is working to get it passed. He notes that he is doing it as an individual, not as a part of his job at Flint.
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He said he took on the task for the same reason that he and his wife volunteered in the school system even though they had no children in the system. He recalled his own education growing up in Red Springs, North Carolina.
“Somebody did it for me,” he said. “Somebody made decisions for the future that I’ve been the beneficiary of. I’m never going to see this indoor pool, but somebody is going to.”
When Autry moved to Houston County in 1998, he immediately liked the community. One of the things he noticed was the number of people who would invite him to their churches as soon as they found out he was a newcomer. People would also invite him to join various volunteer causes, which he did. That typically involved selling fundraising tickets, and he noticed that whenever he sold someone a ticket, they would have a ticket to sell him right back for some other cause.
“Everybody is involved in something,” he said. “Everybody is doing something they care about.”
When a storm has hit the area, Autry is the man who lets the public know about power outages and how long it will be before power is restored. But his job entails much more than that.
He is senior vice president of member and community relations, overseeing 59 people who deal with the public in various ways. Those include customer service representatives and the people who cut off power when someone hasn’t paid the bill.
He first began working in the electric business in 1980 and as a part of his job he has visited every state in the nation except Alaska. Years ago, he was invited to speak to an electric cooperative group in Alaska but for reasons he can’t remember, he bowed out, thinking he could go the next year. But the organization disbanded after that and he never got to go.
“That’s on my bucket list now,” he said.
Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker said he turned to Autry to promote the sales tax because Autry has been successful at it in the past. In addition to helping get previous county sales taxes passed, Autry has also twice chaired the committee to pass the education special purpose local option sales tax.
Stalnaker said Autry will be greatly missed when he moves permanently.
“I think he is a person who has given a whole lot more than he has ever received from the community,” Stalnaker said. “He has helped this community in more ways than through Flint Energies. He is an advocate for Flint, but more important he is an advocate for the total community.”