The dedicated public servant leaves behind a legacy of being the voice of reason in tough situations and the father-figure of Covington who makes important decisions in helping to move the city forward.
Cecil Steven Horton began his career with the city of Covington on Feb. 9, 1978, as a patrol officer in the police department. He never looked back and for the next nearly 35 years worked his way up the chain, taking on ever-increasing responsibility and becoming a respected leader in his hometown.
During all that time, Horton has humbly led the way and has served the community in many roles. For that service, members of the community are thankful to have such a hard working and versatile leader.
At a city council meeting on Dec. 17, citizens gathered in the council chambers simply to say thank you to a job well done. Former Mayor Kim Carter read a proclamation of Horton's service and offered her thanks as other council members also voiced their gratitude for his service.
"He's remarkable in performing his job. He can find the middle ground in situations that you would think were near impossible," Carter said. "He's risen through the ranks of his 34-plus career always to levels of increasing responsibility."
"Steve, you are a fixture around here, and it's going to be hard to think about trying to go through the concerns and problems we have without coming and talking to you about it," Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams said.
"Thank you for being a mentor; thank you for being a representation of how you are supposed to represent yourself as a gentleman and as a man," Councilman Keith Dalton said.
"I always judge people in the depth-of-the-man type stuff and the depth of this man just blows me away personally. I had the opportunity to watch you work for about a year, and I've watched you interact with people and with citizens and even how you have interacted with me," said Mayor Ronnie Johnston.
"In many ways, he's been like a father figure to me - matter of fact there have been a few meetings where he put me in my place, but he did it respectfully. I just want to personally thank you for everything that you have done,"
Earlier this year in May, Horton was named the Administrator of the Year for the Northeast Georgia Region of the state.
"His professionalism, his demeanor, the way he goes about doing his job, he enjoys the respect and trust of not only local elected officials, but also the residents of the city as well," said Jim Dove, executive director of the northeast regional commission, when explaining why Horton won the award. "He was just a natural choice. He manages a city above reproach in everything it does and sets the standard for a lot of the municipalities in that area."
In November at the annual Lighting of the Courthouse ceremony, Horton was named one of the county's "Shining Lights."
After receiving both honors, Horton humbly accepted the recognition, but down-played his years of work and service that helped him receive any type of accolades.
"I guess it's the pinnacle of my career. It certainly matters more to me than the Administrator of the Year that I thought (at the time) was the greatest award I'd ever gotten," Horton said after being named a "Shining Light."
"The fact this was an award that I took to be from and on behalf of the community that I have lived in and grown up in and worked in all my life, it meant a lot more to me."
"It's amazing what they do for you for when you're leaving," Horton joked.
He thanked many people who had helped him on his path, including former city manager Frank Turner Sr., former mayor Bill Dobbs, community leader T.K. Adams, City Attorney Ed Crudup and Covington's walking historian the late Charles King.
"I think I have tried to observe the people who lived their lives in the way either I would like to live mine or the way I should live mine. I've tried to take what I learned and use it, selfishly to my own betterment, but to the betterment of my job, my service to the community and to the raising of my family," Horton said.
While Horton has made many friends in Covington and has done a tremendous amount of work for the city, he has repeatedly credited many of his accomplishments to his wife Mary, who he met while working at the Covington Police Department.
"Nobody ever really gets anywhere on their own and that's especially true for me," Horton said during his last council meeting "In fact, in everything that I have accomplished and most of who I am and who I've become has occurred to a great extent because of my wife Mary."
During that meeting, Horton also thanked his family, city staff, elected officials and the community for his experiences and all of the friendships that he has made in the community.