For the past five years I have had the privilege of sharing with the folks of Covington my views and opinions about what makes Covington a great place to live. Each column carried a tagline that identified me as a retired Methodist Minister who now resides in Covington. I have shared stories about many points of pride we can claim. And I appreciate the warm response many of you have given.
Recently there has been an addition to my tagline. It now ends with the statement that I am the father-in-law to Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston. To anyone who knows me, this will not come as any surprise. In the past I have written entire columns about my family, including Ronnie, my daughter, Kelley, his wife, and their children. But a call to the then-editor of The Covington News and a post on Facebook accused the paper of poor journalism for not disclosing my relationship to Mayor Johnston.
Posted on Facebook was the charge that I was writing wonderful articles every two weeks about my son-in-law, and they said the paper had not divulged that relationship. They truth is I write a monthly column. Also, that I have not made a single reference to the election that we are in the process of up to this point. Also, I have made multiple references in a variety of columns as to my relationship to Ronnie and his family. I am very, very proud of that relationship.
The decision was to make the addition of my relationship with the mayor to my tag line. I am honored to have this done, for I am very proud of Ronnie as a part of my family. He has been a wonderful husband for our daughter, Kelley. They have raised four amazing children, and I will match my grandchildren with anybody’s. And then there is that precious great-granddaughter that we share.
I am honored to be identified with Ronnie, whom I have known for almost 40 years, first as his pastor, then as a client with the very successful dental business he helped lead, and as his father-in-law. I have watched with great pride the leadership had has given our entire community this past eight years as mayor, as well as the success he and Kelley have had in starting new businesses around the Square.
I went back and looked at the columns I have shared with you in the past few months. I did not talk about the election we are in the middle of now. I did not mention any candidate's name. Early voting is over, and this coming Tuesday is Election Day. I had written about the groundbreaking of the new Central Park, the reasons we celebrate Labor Day and the start of the construction of Three Ring Studios — all good news for all of Covington. It was interesting that in criticizing the paper for publishing my column, not one incident of bias or mistaken fact was cited.
If talking of progress seems to promote one candidate over another, perhaps you should ask who should be the leaders you vote for.
In 60 years of preaching and teaching, one lesson I have learned was that people did not always hear what I wanted them to hear. This same lesson I learned when I was a reporter for the Athens Banner-Herald, covering the Carl Sanders and Marvin Griffin race for governor. Both sides complimented me for being unbiased as compared to the Atlanta papers of those times. The truth is we were reporting the same facts.
In being a part of the community during Ronnie’s tenure as mayor, I could give many examples of what kind of leader he is. He has shown a compassion for all people, of all ranks of life. He truly cares for the entire community. I could list many examples, but let me give you two.
Jody Hice, the congressman from the 10th District of Georgia which includes part of Newton County, spoke at a gathering of community leaders during October and said he was very excited about what all was happening in Covington. It reminded me of his speaking at a rally celebrating the Three Ring Studio, where he said that in his opinion, Ronnie Johnston was the best mMayor in Georgia.
It was reported in the press that Jason McCarthy, who heads the Covington chapter of an activist group called “Stop EtO,” looked at the mayor and City Council at the last meeting in October and said, “You guys did what no one else in this area wanted to do, and that’s lead. And that wasn’t easy.”
Mayor Johnston responded, “This is by no means done, but the process has taken a giant step in the right direction.” And that would apply to much of the progress we are in the middle of accomplishing.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist minister and author who now resides in Covington. He is the father-in-law to Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston.