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WHAT IT MEANS: Former Newton commissioner says Black History Month time to reflect, learn
Lanier Sims
Lanier Sims is a local businessman who is a Navy veteran, a former District 2 member of the Newton County Board of Commissioners and the current chairman of the Newton County Industrial Development Authority’s Board of Directors. - photo by Special to The News

About this Series: Throughout the month of February, "What It Means: A Black History Month Series" will tell the story of leaders within Newton County's Black community, while highlighting the importance of Black History Month and acknowledging the continued progress toward reaching equality.

COVINGTON, Ga. — Former Newton County Commissioner Lanier Sims said Black History Month was a perfect time for him to reflect, learn and educate.

“There is no American history without Black history,” Sims said. “Throughout the year, and especially in February, I try to reflect on the accomplishments that African Americans have given to American history. It is a joy to learn something new every year, may it be an invention you did not know, the first Black to do …, or to just learn the history and struggles that someone had and how they overcame it.  Last, after you have learned something new you must share that with someone else.”

Sims, who is a Newton native, represented District 2 on the Newton County’s Board of Commissioners for eight years (2011-2019). After graduating from Newton County High School in 1993, he joined the Navy and served on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. After his time in the military, Sims returned to Newton County and took over his family’s construction business, Sims Excavating. He also became a partner and co-owner of Southern Homes Unlimited, LLC, with his wife, Bionca, and then he later started Dualdeko Design and Marketing. 

In addition to his business ventures, Sims currently serves as chairman of the Newton County Industrial Development Authority’s Board of Directors.

During his time of reflection, Sims said there were several people within the Black community to inspire him and help shape him into the man he is today.

His mother and father, Mildred and Eddie Roy, taught him many valuable lessons and values, Sims said.

“From my mom instilling faith in me from a young age, to dad showing me what determination and hard work looks like,” Sims said. “It took both faith and determination for them to start a successful construction company — Sims Excavating — in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. They overcame a lot in those days, and that is where a draw my strength from today.”

Sims said his wife, who is an oncology nursing manager, “taught me a deeper level of compassion for my fellow man.” 

And these lessons set the stage for him to run for office and to give back to his community, Sims said.

When he decided to run for a seat on the Board of Commissioners, Sims recalled, the late Judge Horace J. Johnson became his mentor.

“He came to my office [on the day I announced] and began to mentor and shape my leadership skills,” Sims said. 

Johnson, who was the first Black Superior Court judge appointed to the Alcovy Judicial Circuit and a beloved member of the Newton County community, became Sims’ sounding board, Sims said.

“We would often have breakfast and talk local politics and hot topics,” Sims said. “We had many hot topics that no elected official wanted to address. Judge Johnson told me I must lead, I must be vocal, and I must do what I feel is the best for the community … Judge Johnson taught me fairness, strength and to always stand by your decision.”

After just a few of those breakfasts, Sims said, Johnson helped him break out of his “quiet commissioner” persona.

Another person Sims leaned on for guidance was the late Almond Turner, a retired assistant police chief and member of the Newton County Board of Education. “A good friend,” Sims said Turner taught him the gift of laughter and leadership.

“He taught me that a little humor makes you approachable by everyone,” Sims said. “Laughter allows you to connect with people at every level. Many times, in tense county government meetings, I would crack a joke just to soften the mood.”

With the goal of giving back to his community and improving the quality of life, Sims said his focus has always been centered on jobs.

“When I took office as a commissioner in 2011 in the middle of the recession, I had one goal,” Sims said, “and that was to bring opportunity to our local citizens in the form of jobs and better jobs. Today, more than 10,000 jobs later, we are just getting started.”

In his role with the Newton County IDA, Sims said workforce development has also become a priority.

“We partner with several organizations to help educate and train citizens for these jobs,” he said. “Currently, we are working with Georgia Piedmont Technical College with the Touch Technical experience. This training will prepare citizens for the high tech opportunities Newton County has to offer. We also work with Construction Ready program and Holder Construction to get citizens trained in the construction field. Lastly, we are working with the Newton County School Systems along with Be Pro Be Proud to bring alternatives to high school students that want to be successful but may not want to go to college. These programs gain their interests in different professions, such as welding, plumbing, electrical and other fields.

“With the continued job growth and the available education, we are not only helping the Black community but the whole community.”