Mayor Randy Toms sat comfortably behind his desk at City Hall a couple of days after winning his second term Nov. 7. He secured a big win making a runoff unnecessary, though his two opponents were well-known and raised in Warner Robins just as he was.
Toms said he felt great, especially after getting his first full night’s sleep since the start of election season — and even after being rear-ended at a stop-light on Russell Parkway the day after the win.
He said he’s fine, just feeling the normal aches and pains of a 57-year-old.
After months of exhaustive questioning and scrutiny by residents, the press and his opponents, Toms agreed to address a few less politically-charged issues.
First, his family.
“Oh gosh, family is everything — especially now with grandchildren,” he said. “My mom and dad raised three of us boys here and I met my wife, Jane, at Tabor Junior High School. We’ve been married 35 years and it gets better and better. We have two children and — here’s where it gets really good, and my children already know their significance has faded — but we have five grandchildren now ages 6, 5, 4 and 3. They call me G-boy, sometimes just G. I love this job but I’ve got perspective. I put my Lord Jesus Christ first, my wife and family next, then my job.”
With a big job and grandkids filling his time, is there a hobby?
“Golf,” he said. “Some say I play too much but I don’t get to very much. I don’t hunt or fish, I play golf. And I have to say it’s not about enjoying exercise, time outside or friends, it’s about winning. About a good score. That’s what I enjoy. When I have a bad round, and I have a lot, I enjoy grinding it out, fixing it and figuring out how to make it good. Bad scores are no fun.”
Is there a favorite childhood-in-Warner-Robins memory? Toms answered quickly.
“Has to be the countless hours at Flint Field, the Little League ball park that was next to Warner Robins High School. It’s the fun, influential coaches and the many people who became friends and still are friends. Anybody my age who lived here knows Flint Field.”
How will the Toms spend Christmas holidays?
“That’s a good one,” he said. “It will be time with family and no time campaigning. Our house will be full of children, grandchildren, relatives and a lot of laughter. It includes my brother-in-law, (Superior Court Chief Judge) Ed Lukemire, and his kids coming over. His wife is my wife’s sister. I’m looking forward to the holidays.”
Does he have a favorite vacation destination?
“Not a destination but being with family,” he said. “Really. That’s the best thing about vacations now, all of us trying to get together. Doesn’t matter so much where but who I’m with. When I was a kid, we spent two weeks camping summers at Vogel State Park in north Georgia every year and one week there in October. Campfires, Coleman stoves, all that.”
Can the mayor identify the best advice he’s been given?
“Yes, but not by way of, ‘Now sit down son, let me tell you,’” he said. “It’s advice demonstrated through my mom’s life and it was this: always find some way to laugh, some way to enjoy life. That’s the best advice I’ve gotten and I try to follow it. It’s not about jokes but a lifestyle. Of course there are things that aren’t funny and I’m not saying push it, but you’re better off if you can find a way to laugh. Enjoy life. Enjoy people. As a firefighter I saw things that were not one bit funny ...”
At this, Toms quieted down and tears welled in his eyes.
“... There are scenes you can’t get out of your head. But I believe those things give all the more weight to the fact you always need to find joy in the people and situations around you.”
Speaking of enjoyment, what’s Toms’ favorite meal?
“I’m pretty basic,” he said. “Nothing beats a steak and, for me, a baked sweet potato. That’s as good as it gets.”
But reflecting further Toms said, “Unless you say banana pudding. Then it’s banana pudding, right?”
Reading material? Does Toms have a favorite book?
“I begin every day in prayer and Bible reading,” he said. “That’s my favorite and most necessary book. I couldn’t do this job without the guidance and comfort I get from God’s word. Other than that, Charles Stanley’s “How to Keep Your Kids on Your Side.” I read that in ‘91 and remember the date because I was in a doctor’s office in Atlanta related to a cyst on my brain. Low and behold Charles Stanley was there. I asked him what he would want me to get from it. He said to teach my kids to transfer their accountability from me to God because I won’t always be with them. God will.”
Who was the most influential person in Toms’ life?
“My Pawpaw,” he said. “My grandfather. He had a fourth-grade education and became a firefighter in Americus. He started cutting firefighters’ hair and decided he liked that better and opened a barber shop and did really well. When I became a Christian I asked him, ‘Pawpaw, if you died today would you go to heaven?’ He said, ‘I will because I know I’m a sinner and I need a savior. I trust what Christ did for me on the cross and that’s the only reason I’m going to heaven.’ I realized I had a strong Christian heritage along with all the love and good examples he provided me.”
Toms was a career firefighter in Warner Robins. How does he think that compares with being mayor?
“Sonny Perdue told me, ‘Well you’re jumping out of the fire into the fire.’ But seriously it’s this: someone asked why I take so long making decisions. The answer is because I can. As a firefighter through training and experience you have to make split-second, life-or-death decisions. I can still make quick decisions and with training and experience I hope they’re getting better. But it’s nice being able to study, get expert input and then say this is the decision.”
And how is it different?
“It’s that being mayor you’re on your own,” he said. “As a firefighter you’re part of such a close-knit team, a family. You eat, sleep, train, work and do your duty together. You don’t have that as mayor. You have great department heads and advisers and such, but obviously it’s different. That took some getting used to.”
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.