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Appreciation events for retired officials
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Former school board members Jean Yontz, Donald McKinney, Darlene Hotchkiss

Private residents are coming together for two events in a show of appreciation for nine recently retired elected officials whose years of service total up to 148 years. 

On Thursday, Jan. 17, starting 5:30 p.m., a Community Appreciation Event will be held at the Scot Ward’s Green Meadow Chapel and Reception Hall, 699 American Legion Road, Conyers. 

The event will recognize the service of former Coroner Dr. Stephen Boyle, former Sheriff Jeff Wigington, former Tax Commissioner Dan Ray, former Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation, former Probate Court Judge Lillis Brown, former Magistrate Court Chief Judge Rudy Horne, former school board members Darlene Hotchkiss, Jean Yontz and Don McKinney. 

The public is invited to attend. Organized emphasized it was not a partisan event but simply a chance for the community to express their gratitude for the years of service from the officials.

Scot Ward and Julie Mills both came to the idea separately and came together to work on the event.

Mills said “I felt it was something the community needed to do, based on people here expressing their appreciation” for the officials.

"The message we want to convey by honoring them at this event is that their service contributed much  to the betterment of Rockdale County. They brought to their respective offices intellect, character, integrity and a sincere commitment to perform their duties to the best of their abilities on behalf of the citizens; and, they have each left positive legacies. We also want to acknowledge that they have much to offer as community leaders and encourage them to remain involved in whatever capacity they feel is right for them."

Light hors d'oeuvres and food will be provided by the Seven Gables Restaurant, Outback Steakhouse and Jim N’ Nick’s Bar-B-Q. 

Other community sponsors stepped up to contribute toward thank you gifts for the nine officials.  Those include Copy Central; Maddox, Nix,  Bowman & Zoeckler; Scott and Julie Mills; NUVISION Financial Corporation and Tony L. Wilson; Rockdale Republican Party; Scot Ward Funeral Services; Still Lumber Company; JaNice Van Ness, Rockdale County Commissioner and owner of Peachtree Academy; About Conyers Magazine Holly Bowie & Diane Davis.

On Friday, January 25, another event seeks to assist retired officials with any remaining campaign debt they might have from the November election.

The event starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Whistlepost Tavern, 935 Railroad Street. There is no cover charge but attendees can contribute how they wish to attending former candidates. The public is invited to attend.

Organizer Bob Bala said he was moved after the November elections. 

“These candidates, the ones that were already officials that lost their seats, they’re the reason people move to Rockdale County. They’re the reason why it’s at the level that it is,” said Bala. “I felt so sad they were walking away defeated and thrown away like a dish rag. I just had a strong feeling that the community had to say thank you and goodbye.”

“Then I found out there were still some debts outstanding. We need to help these people.”

Entertainment will be provided by a live band, Tiger Bragg, and Bala’s granddaughter, 14-year-old Bailey Ann Bala, a national champion gospel singer. The comedy duo the Peach Pits (formerly called the Mixed Nuts), made up of Gary Bridgewater and Neil Lange, will also provide entertainment.