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Former Long Commission chairman reflects on tenure
Randy Wilson
Randy Wilson sits in his office and says he is enjoying retired life. - photo by Photo by Mike Riddle
LUDOWICI — In 1986, when Randy Wilson retired from the Fort Stewart Fire Department, the only plan he had was to work for himself as a general contractor. The retiring firefighter wasn’t too fond of politicians or politics in general.
However a 1988 conversation with long-time Ludowici Alderman, A.A. “Zip” Billings changed Wilson’s mind.
“I had decided to run for the county surveyor position, and ran into Mr. Billings as I was leaving the courthouse. After about 20 minutes of talking to him, he had talked me into running for county commissioner.”
Wilson he had no idea he would be a on the Long County Commission for the next 20 years.
“I had a pretty negative outlook on politicians. I knew I was an honest person, and one of the things that I really wanted to do was to take care of the people’s money, and make sure that it was spent appropriately,” Wilson said.
His first goals as commissioner were to provide an elevator for the handicap at the courthouse, pave Mill Pond Road, and get a paved sidewalk to the county recreation park.
“We were able to get all of that done, and back then things were a lot different. The county had very little money. So when we got a project like Mill Pond Road paved it was a big deal,” Wilson said.
“Today we are still very dependent on DOT funding, but back then we were almost entirely dependent on them, and like the Mill Pond paving; that was done with 100 percent funding from DOT.”
Wilson said the job of commissioner has also changed. When he first went on the commission, he worked 8-10 hours a week, but over the year as the job became more administrative, the hours increased.
“Our budget went from $1.2 million in 1989 to last year it being over $6 million. What I use to do in a day, over the last few years, (now) took 25-30 hours a week,” Wilson said.
He was elected commission chairman in 1990 and served in that capacity for 19 years.
In that role, many of his goals changed. He said one of his big prides is how he and former commissioners were able to build up the county’s infrastructure.
“Most people who come into the county today take what we have for granted, but 20 years ago, we had very little. For those of us who have been here, we can really appreciated what we have today.”
Under Wilson’s leadership the county built a new library, a new fire department, established EMS service, created the Coastal Manor Nursing Home, built the senior citizen center, improved Headstart, built a new health department, new DFACS office, and established curbside trash pick-up.
“Most of the basic services that we now have in the county were not here when we started, people had to go to another county for those services.”
He said many people contributed to the progress.
“I worked with five different boards, and some were better than others, but on all of them we tried to do a good job for the county.”
He said also believes the commission was always open to the public.
“I’m really proud of the way we always were accountable with tax dollars, even over the last couple of years with the property reassessment delaying funding, right up to the end, we were able to operate for six months without any tax revenue coming in.”
He also said he is proud that when he left office the county had $800,000 in grant money available for projects like roads and the renovations of the Train Depot.
Wilson doesn’t rule out a return to politics, but for now he says he has other priorities.
“Over the last 20 years, I could write a book on what I saw and was a part of. It has been a great experience, but right now all I want to do is work on my hot rods, do some traveling, and take care of my businesses.”
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