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City's living mayors reflect on accomplisments

POSTED: September 7, 2012 3:59 p.m.
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Former Mayor Allen Brown poses next to an archery target signed by members of the South Korean National Archery Team when they trained here for the 1996 Olympics in Altanta. That was during Brown's term as mayor.

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Buddy DeLoach -- The Army Town

Former Mayor Buddy DeLoach, who served from 1987-1992, took a moment recently to reflect on the relationship between Hinesville and Fort Stewart, something he worked hard to cultivate while in office.
Surrounded by family photos of his wife Linda; son and daughter-in-law, Jeffrey and Mary; and grandchildren, Will and Kathryn, and additional shots of DeLoach posing with decorated generals, the golf and fishing enthusiast said the community worked quickly when the U.S. Army announced a new addition at Fort Stewart.
“It was a major impact when the 24th Infantry Division came to Fort Stewart,” DeLoach said. “We had to act fast to create requirements for orderly development.”
DeLoach committed to getting to know the 24th Infantry command group. He and his wife were present when Maj. Gen. Barry McCaffrey cut the nation’s birthday cake with a sabre, just before the troops deployed to Desert Storm.
“We pulled together and put personal worries aside, building lasting relationships. I’ll never forget a candlelight prayer service at Olvey Field, where Miss Georgia sang God Bless America as thousands waved flags,” he said. “But I’m most proud of how groups got together to mow lawns, handle minor repairs and take kids to Little League.”  
As the conflict’s end neared and DeLoach visited troops in Saudi Arabia over Christmas, he hatched an idea for a homecoming celebration.
“The community rallied around the idea,” he said.
More than 100,000 people, including then-Gov. Zell Miller, state Rep. Lindsay Thomas, and Forces Command Commander-in-Chief Gen. Edwin Burba witnessed the
parade through downtown Hinesville and patriotic ceremonies on May 3, 1991, at Fort Stewart’s Cottrell Field.  
“Army Chief of Staff Gen. Carl Vuono complimented our deployment efforts and called Hinesville ‘the Army town.’ It was repeated often as the nation and world focused on our community,” DeLoach said with a grin. “Today, we’re still the Army town.”

Allen Brown -- OMI contract a good call

During Allen Brown’s two mayoral terms, from 1992-1999, Hinesville had to replace every department head — Fire Chief Julien Mingledorff, Police Chief Harlon DeLoach, City Clerk Onetha Mingledorff and  Bill Downs of the inspections department — due to retirements and DeLoach’s death.
Eleven Russian generals visited Hinesville and Washington, D.C. The city continued to deal with growth and deployments.
Change was constant.
On April 1, 1992, Hinesville expanded the scope of its 1984 contract with OMI, now CH2M Hill, for sanitation services, storm-water management, street maintenance, mosquito control and fleet maintenance in addition to the water and wastewater management services it already provided.
The contract, negotiated annually, still is in place today.
The contract came after a decision in the early 1980s to construct a joint wastewater treatment facility with Fort Stewart.  
“At the time, Hinesville operated two aerated oxidation lagoons. Fort Stewart had an antiquated system,” Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards explained. “Both Hinesville and Fort Stewart were overtaxed.”   
The facility had to be on Fort Stewart because of the location of the Canoochee River, the receiving stream.  Hinesville agreed to own, operate, maintain and provide services for Fort Stewart and Hinesville. The need for a relationship between the city of Hinesville and OMI was born.
“After research was conducted by city engineer Paul Simonton with Curtis Boswell of EPD and their project manager for our project, we decided to contract the operations for water and wastewater treatment,” Edwards said. “We selected OMI for their technical expertise, advanced certifications, cost efficiency and a proven track record.”
Brown added, “So in 1992, when the city and the needs of public works were growing, we had to make serious decisions about how to move forward. OMI was the logical choice.”   
Edwards agreed.
“And it has been a relationship that has benefitted both parties,” he said.  
OMI used its work with Hinesville as an example to market its services nationwide. Bernie Miller and Gary Wood were the first OMI employees on the project. However, many of the original city employees remain and now are in management positions with CH2M Hill.
“The relationship has been a win-win for all involved,” Brown said.

Tom Ratlciffe -- Landing an airport

Former Mayor Tom Ratcliffe, who served from 2000-2007, believes preparing a proposal package for Sen. Paul Coverdell in 2000 and a good relationship with Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield secured the MidCoast Regional Airport at Wright Army Airfield for the community.
“The county’s general aviation airport on Airport Road, lacking a terminal to welcome visitors, had long been deemed inadequate,” Ratcliffe said. “Under an agreement with Fort Stewart, we were able to open the airport and receive a 1,500-foot extension of one of the runways.”
Open since November 2007, the joint-use airport on Fort Stewart serves the community’s general and corporate aviation needs by providing a state-of-the-art terminal for civilian and military use with hangar space, tie-down areas, crash carts, a tower and access to two 5,000-foot runways with the potential to expand one runway to 6,500 feet in the future.
“It’s a powerful economic development tool,” Ratcliffe said. “We discovered that 98 percent of flights can be done on a 5,000-foot runway. So the airport can accommodate corporate jets carrying officials searching for new sites with easy access to Tradeport East and Tradeport West, located 12 miles away with only one stoplight.”
MidCoast Regional Airport is a cooperative effort between the city of Hinesville, Fort Stewart, the Liberty County Board of Commissioners and the Liberty County Development Authority.

James Thomas -- A hopeful community

Mayor James Thomas has one word to sum up his administration: hopeful. But the second-term mayor isn’t leaving anything to hope alone.
During his term of office, which started in 2008 and will run until 2015, the city has faced many challenges, including losing a promised brigade, advocating for reimbursement and ultimately receiving $40 million of a $75 million request with the help of concerned citizens, Rep. Jack Kingston, the late Rep. John Murtha and the Georgia congressional delegation.
Thomas said the experience taught him the importance of pulling together to build relationships.
More than 30 ethnic groups reside in Hinesville, according to the latest Census figures.
“It has been nice to see these groups work together for the common good,” Thomas said.
The mayor also has come to understand the importance of cooperation and community service through his church, and through participation in the Liberty County Hospital Authority, the Hinesville Metropolitan Planning Organization, Hinesville Architectural Review Board, Hinesville Military Affairs Committee, 11 Black Men of Liberty County and several other local civic organizations.
Though he is a 30-year resident of Hinesville, the former military officer didn’t grow up here. 
“So I saw Hinesville in a different way — not as a small town, but one poised for significant progress,” he said.
Thomas and the city sought sister-city relationships to kick-start progress and tapped into global partnerships, beginning with Yichun, China, and a recruiting effort with the Chinese Heat Treatment Institute’s parts-manufacturing facilities.
Hinesville has begun similar negotiations with a Brazilian city in need of an alternative fuel source and with one in Paraguay.  
“As we build relationships with the people of these countries, we also build cultural and economic ties,” Thomas said. “It’s our hope to attract more business, jobs and residents through our global efforts.”

 

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