When Roy Varner passed away I wrote that Newton County had lost a great timber. With the passing of former Mayor Bill Dobbs another great man who contributed to the enormous progress made in the City of Covington and Newton County during a golden period in the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s has left us.
Mayor Dobbs and Roy Varner were political opponents in the race for Chairman of the Newton County Board of Commissioners in 1976. Bill had the political experience of having managed the far more progressive government of the City of Covington. His stately demeanor and quiet ability to deal with the complex issues of a service providing city government combined with his name recognition and daily presence on the Square at his Optician office made Dr. Dobbs an early favorite. When the votes were counted, however, farmer Roy Varner was the winner.
Over the next few months, however, a strong respect and an unprecedented working relationship began to build between Roy and Bill. After some early confidence building joint efforts, a unique bond formed between the City of Covington Council and the Newton County Board of Commissioners which would not have developed but for the strength, insight and character of Mayor Bill Dobbs and Chairman Roy Varner.
I was fortunate to have been in a position to participate in what I call the golden age of intergovernmental relations in Newton County. Led by the Mayor and the Chairman, the two governmental units combined to accomplish a number of projects which would have been impossible for either one of them alone to have successfully completed.
Both men understood instinctively that the futures of the City of Covington and Newton County were inextricably bound together. This seems so intuitively self-evident, but putting the idea into practice has proven almost impossible except for Bill and Roy and their respective governments.
They combined to plan and fund the reservoir which now provides the drinking water for the entire county. To mention just a few other joint projects, they widened Washington Street, helped create a funding mechanism for a modern Chamber of Commerce, built a county wide recreation system and tied the new Covington By-Pass Road into the existing Hwy 142.
Roy used to say, “There is no limit to what you can accomplish if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.” That exemplifies the spirit between Bill and Roy. Neither cared who got the credit as long as the project got done.
With the passing from the political scene of Bill and Roy, the relationship between the City and the County eroded. The golden age became part of the history of the County and the City. Those of us who were here and saw what they accomplished, however, knew that the driving force behind the progress of the 1980’s was the cooperation fostered by Mayor Bill Dobbs and Chairman Roy Varner.
There is the age old debate about whether the times make the man or the man makes the times. Having watched Bill and Roy, I know that these two men made the times they lived into the foundation of all that was accomplished in our area in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
They were both great men who have both now passed, and we are worse off for the loss. Thank you Bill and Roy for all you did.