Covington Mayor Sam Ramsey and Councilman Roger Tingler were honored for their combined 55 years of public service at a retirement party Thursday evening.
Both Ramsey and Tingler will serve on their last council meeting on Monday night.
The holiday-themed reception, held at Turner Lake, was attended by a large number of city employees, family members and friends of the two elected officials. To the background music of a bluegrass band, attendees lined up to sign guest books and to shake hands with Ramsey and Tingler and thank them for their many years of service to the city.
"We're going to miss them," said Covington City Manager Steve Horton. "Both of them have been very fiscally responsible elected officials with the city. I think they took the trust bestowed upon them by the voters and carried it out to the best of their abilities."
Ramsey was elected mayor of Covington in 1997 after previously serving on the city council and the Planning Commission for a total of 37 years of public service. Ramsey has said he plans to spend more time with his other civic commitments such as the Salem Campground where he is vice-chairman of the board of trustees.
"I feel like I'm losing a big family in a way because I've gotten to know so many of the employees," said Ramsey of his impeding retirement. "I really appreciate them all."
Mike Smith, director of Covington/Newton 911, said he admired how Ramsey had kept the city running efficiently while at the same time maintaining a close-knit atmosphere.
"From our perspective (Ramsey's) been a champion in helping us keep our department at the head of the state," Smith said "He will be sorely missed."
Covington City Clerk John Groether echoed the sentiments of Smith.
"Sam does have a love for the community," Groether said. "He's a man of character, honesty and integrity and he's been able to represent the city well."
Under Ramsey's tenure as mayor, the city of Covington received a number of awards including a City of Ethics Award, a City of Excellence Award, a Georgia Signature Community recognition and an All-America City nomination. The city also received recognition for being the first city in Georgia to receive full accreditation for all four of its municipal departments: Police, Fire, Public Works and 911 Communications.
on nearly 20 years
Elected to the Covington City Council in 1989, Tingler is the second longest-serving member of the council after Councilwoman Janet Goodman.
"I think it's time to maybe step back and relax a bit," Tingler said. "I'm not leaving by any means. I might pop up again."
Tingler said he will continue to remain involved with the Newton County Recreation Department as well as the American Legion where he is a registered lobbyist and serves on the organization's national legislative commission.
Tingler said he will not miss the angry phone calls he used to receive from city residents upset about something or other that the city council was considering.
"Not many people call you to tell you you're doing a good job," Tingler said.
One of the most critical points in Tingler's nearly 20-year career on the council occurred at the end of 2006 when as the chairman of the Cable Television Committee he recommended that the city sell Covington Cable.
Covington eventually sold the cable company to Charter Communications for $27.4 million. Since the sale was finalized in August, the city and Charter have received numerous complaints from cable customers upset over changes in their channel lineup, billing confusion and customer service.
Tingler said he believed it was the right decision to sell the cable company due to the rising cost of information technology and the pressures with staying competitive with major national cable companies such as Charter and Comcast.
During his fall campaign for mayor of Covington, Tingler said he had to contend with a number of residents who were angry over the city's decision to sell the cable company.
"If I had to do it over I would do it again even if it cost me the election. Overall it was the right thing to do," said Tingler, adding that in the last year the cable company had actually lost $1 million. "I'm just sorry that Charter didn't have a better (public relations) department when they came into Covington."
In his time on the council, Tingler has sat on several committees in addition to the Cable Television Committee. His committee memberships include the Newton County Industrial Development Authority Board, the Newton County Recreation Commission and the Covington Tree Board.
"I think I'll miss being part of the development over the next few years," Tingler said, adding that he believed big things were coming the city's way.