ALBANY, Ga. -- State and local elected officials, both past and present, honored former Albany mayor and County Commission Chairman Paul Keenan Monday, renaming a portion of State Route 3 the Paul Keenan Highway.
One-by-one, friends and colleagues of Keenan took to the podium at the Government Center to honor the man many described as one of the most diligent public servants to have served in local political office.
In addition to his time in the public realm, Keenan also co-created one of the area's most successful law firms and served as the executive for Keenan's Auto Parts, which once occupied what is now the Albany Welcome Center and home of the Convention and Visitor's Bureau.
Keenan essentially donated that historic building -- also known as the Bridge House -- to Dougherty County.
The first to shower Keenan with thanks Monday was state Rep. Carol Fullerton, D-Albany, who said she had been a family friend of Keenan's for 30 years.
"He is just such a humble public servant," Fullerton said. "He never asked for anything for himself but was willing to give of himself to benefit the community; he is a shining example of civil service."
Former Albany Mayor Tommy Coleman, who said that it was largely under Keenan's careful watch that Albany enjoyed some of its most fruitful years, worked to get Keenan elected and said he often was a recipient of Keenan's political advice while he was mayor.
"The '50s, '60s and '70s were I guess what many would say was the golden period for our city ... in many ways we were the envy of the state," Coleman said. "I don't know anyone who had a greater impact on the city and county during that period."
Former state Sen. Michael Meyer von Bremen said that he first had interactions with Keenan when Von Bremen was a young Boy Scout, but was proud to have his advice and suggestions once he got started in political life.
"We are all the beneficiaries of some great decisions made by Paul Keenan," Von Bremen said.
Current state Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Albany, said that her interactions with Keenan, although brief, were invaluable to her.
"I want you to know, Mr. Keenan, I appreciate those lessons," she said. "You are a true Southern gentleman."
Albany Mayor Willie Adams, who was one of the most ardent supporters of the push to rename a portion of the highway after Keenan, said that Keenan helped educate him on some of the finer points of serving the city and that he was thankful for his input and insight even when he had perceivable profit from giving of himself.
After telling a story about his first contact with Keenan after becoming mayor, Adams said that Keenan was a valuable resource to get him acclimated to public service.
"So what does that mean?" Adams asked those in attendance. "It means that we have a civil servant who has always put the city and the county ahead of his personal time and benefit. And, that's a good lesson for us all."
The selected road is also commonly referred to as U.S. 19 and runs from the Lee County line to the Mitchell County line in southern Dougherty County.
After listening to the benevolent comments uttered by his friends and colleagues, Keenan told those in attendance that he was humbled to be the topic of such a grand affair and that he hoped he managed to do some good for the community through his public service.
"I'm really surprised by all of this," he said. "I wasn't expecting any of it. I don't really know what I'm supposed to do, but I do appreciate you all and I am humbled to be in this company."
According to public records, Keenan served as county commission chairman from 1965 to 1979 when Gil Barrett took over and Albany mayor from 1992 to 1996 followed by Coleman.