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Former Social Circle mayor dies
Engineer served as mayor from 1979-97, was on industrial board
Vice Mayor Larry Coker, left and Mayor Frank Sherrill talk while looking back on their service in Social Circle, Ga., during an interview with The Walton Tribune in late 1997. (Photo by The Walton Tribune)

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — Former Social Circle Mayor Frank Wade Sherrill died Thursday morning.

He was 79.

Sherrill, an engineer, served as mayor from 1979-97. After his tenure, he served on the Social Circle Planning Commission and the city’s Industrial Development Authority.

He later served a stint as the interim city manager of Monticello.

“We are saddened by the passing of former Social Circle Mayor Frank Sherrill,” the current mayor, David Keener, said.

“Frank served as our mayor for 19 years and for the past several years has been a member of our Social Circle Development Authority. He will certainly be missed in our community.”

The city named its East Hightower Trail fire station the Frank W. Sherrill Fire Station in a ceremony on Dec. 5, 1997, as he prepared to leave office.

At the time, The Walton Tribune reported more than 200 people attended a ceremony for a surprise party to honor Sherrill and two other officials whose terms were expiring, Vice Mayor Larry Coker and Councilman Luke Flowers.

Former schools Superintendent John Burks said then he remembered feeling apprehensive when Sherrill and his wife, Joyce, first came to town in the mid-1970s.

“One was a Georgia Tech graduate and the other was a young artist,” Burks said. “Little did we know that the man would become one of the best mayors in Georgia.”

Indeed, Sherrill served as president of the Georgia Municipal Association in 1988, a year after he helped start the Georgia Municipal Gas Authority.

Burks said Sherrill’s success was because “he included everybody at the table.”

Gov. Zell Miller sent his regards for the mayor, saying he’d been a valued adviser to the state.

Sherrill was a native of Miami who came to Georgia for his career in engineering. The young family moved to Social Circle when he worked in Atlanta and his wife was studying at the University of Georgia.

“It was so long ago, I didn’t have any gray hair on my head,” he told The Tribune in 1997. “It was 1975, and I don’t think I had ever been to Social Circle. It was a beautiful spring day with the azaleas and the dogwoods in bloom and we both knew this is where we wanted to spend the rest of our lives.”

A few months later, he said, that was validated when a businessman called Sherrill’s wife to ask how much candy he should sell their son, Jeff.

“We knew then this was a community that would watch over us and look out for children,” he said.

He ran for City Council in 1976 and said he finished “dead last.”

“I said, ‘So much for electoral politics,’” he recalled.

But Sherrill said he was approached two years later about running for mayor against incumbent W.B. Stephens. Sherrill ran and Stephens decided not to seek reelection after all, setting up the 19-year run in office.

Sherrill said he focused on building the city’s infrastructure and industrial base.

The city’s property tax rate decreased to 4 mills in 1997 from 8.5 mills in 1978.

He led a National League of Cities delegation to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to advise in setting up local governments after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Sherrill said the decision not to run again was for the good of himself and the city.

“Once you’ve fixed one pothole, you’ve fixed them all,” he said.

In addition to his public service, Sherrill was the president of Hightower Consulting Engineers, a civil engineering firm in Social Circle that began in 1977.

He was a charter member of the Rotary Club of Social Circle and a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Athens.

He was preceded in death by his wife, the former Joyce Scott Hanks, and survived by their son, Jeff. Sherrill split his time between Social Circle and Watkinsville in recent years.

A private funeral service will take place Wednesday in Athens. A private burial with military honors will follow in the Social Circle City Cemetery.

The family suggests memorials to his church or the American Cancer Society.