Jim Means hates to sit around and has spent most of his retirement volunteering with organizations — lots of them.
Means and his wife Dot, will be leaving Newton County after nearly a quarter century in Newton County, and their presence is expected to be missed by many, including those with the local Elks and Kiwanis clubs, Newton Medical Auxiliary, Eastridge Community Church and Newton County government.
“Jim is a busy man,” said Chief Tax Appraiser Tommy Knight, who worked with Means during Means’ 16-year tenure on the Newton County Board of Tax Assessors.
"I did not like sitting around,” Means said when asked why he’d been so involved in a place that wasn’t his home. “I had to have something to do. I got involved in a lot of things. I worked at Mayfield’s Hardware for five years part time.
“I mixed paint for Tommy one time. It was enjoyable; I always like to do hardware things and thought it would be right up my alley. I wanted to have something to do.”
Means moved to Newton County in 1988 after retiring from a 33-year career in public health.
He spent the first seven years of that career with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, working in the field staff.
“That was a really uptown group of people at the CDC,” Means said. “I worked with venereal diseases, tuberculosis. My job was to interview people with diseases, interview them and find out who they had had contact with. Then I would go and find those people and conduct blood tests.”
He spent the next 26 years working with the U.S. Department of Public Health, working to plan the location and construction of hospitals and nursing homes, in Boston, Charlottesville, Va. and Washington D.C.
Though he graduated with a degree in business administration from North Georgia College, he got into public health through a friend who worked for the state.
“I can’t think of any time I didn’t enjoy working in public health. It was always a pleasure. Sometimes the most unpleasant thing was with the politics; that could get wild,” Means said.
When he retired, Means was looking to move out of the Stone Mountain area, and decided to follow his son who was already living in Newton County.
“I’ve lived here longer than any place in my life. It’s been an enjoyable place, and I’ve enjoyed the people I’ve met here. They’re very important in our life and we see them, as our son says, as our support group. We will miss them very much,” Means said.
“It’s the people and the atmosphere. It’s just been enjoyable to be able to come in and see people you know. They kid me about going to Bojangles to see some of my friends, because we tell the same stories every other week. It’s bad when go into a restaurant and the waitress says, ‘The same thing?’ and you say, ‘Yes.’ It’s the same at Mamie’s Kitchen, — two sausage biscuits and a diet Coke.”
Over the years, Means has donated time to several groups, including the hospital auxiliary, where he’s worked in outpatient surgery, running around helping staff, or helping run golf tournaments.
He also served for several years on the infant mortality review committee, which reviewed the death of every child as required under Georgia law, as well as the county’s personnel board, which heard any complaints that employees would bring against the county for wrongful termination or other complaints. The board was disbanded when the county policy changed a few years ago.
His church was one of the most important parts of his life, and he and his wife lead a small group at Eastridge Community Church for older people, which ended up being a particular large small group at 30 members.
“We were sort of our own group. One of the pastors used to say don’t tell them what to do, they’ll do what they want to do,” Means said with a laugh.
Though he’s enjoyed living in a more rural setting, Means is downsizing, selling his house and moving to a senior living complex in the heart of Houston to be near his daughter and grandchildren. He’ll also be close to the hospital where he plans to volunteer frequently.
“I guess leaving here, we’re going to leave a big part of our life right here,” Means said. “We’re leaving behind an awful lot of great people we know, truly supportive people. If we needed something people were right there to help you. We tried to maintain that same philosophy in our life; we were available if needed. I attribute that to the church a lot.
“As far as volunteering and social life, we just sort of fell into a great group of people, that’s the only way I know how to put it,” he said. “We hate to leave the people here, but we will be back.”