LEESBURG, Ga. -- Alan Ours looked around at the crowded Grand Island Club reception room, at a gathering that came to honor him, and emotion threatened to crack his always-in-control demeanor.
He refilled his plastic cup with tea, sipped slowly and took a crack at expressing those emotions that were so obviously washing over him.
"Probably 99 percent of the people in this room, I will take a good memory with me about something we worked on together," the outgoing Lee County administrator said. "That's one of the things I will cherish most about Lee County: the tremendous encouragement given me since I've been here.
"There were challenging days, good days and fun days. But when I needed an encouraging word, it came from the people in this room."
All five members of the current Lee County Commission -- Betty Johnson, Dennis Roland, Bill Williams, Rick Muggridge and Ed Duffy -- were on hand to pay tribute to Ours, as were past commissioners Jackie Sizemore and Wally Roberts, who were instrumental in bringing Ours to the county.
State House District 152 Rep. Ed Rynders was there to pay his respects, as was Kenneth Cutts, representing U.S. House Disrict 2 Congressman Sanford Bishop. Mayor Jim Quinn and Leesburg City Council members Judy Powell and Bobby Wilson represented the city government, while Albany City Manager Al Lott paid respect from Lee County's neighbor to the south.
They came offering handshakes, hugs and words of encouragement for the man who will take his talents to Brunswick and start his tenure as Glynn County Administrator Aug. 9. The gathering moved Ours to admit his relocation will be a hard one to make.
"It will be bittersweet to leave Lee County," he said, "but I'm at peace with my decision. I'm excited about this opportunity, but as I continue my career -- whether I work 20 more years or 30 more years -- I will always cherish the people I came to know in Lee County."
Speakers at the gathering made it clear that the love and respect was mutual.
"Some of the toughest jobs that are out there are city manager, county administrator and school superintendent," Cutts said before presenting Ours with a House resolution signed by Bishop. "And even operating in these difficult times, Mr. Ours did a wonderful job.
"Whatever you do in life, whatever job you take on, you want to make the place that you're representing better than it was when you got there. Mr. Ours is leaving this community better and stronger."
Quinn, Powell and Leesburg City Clerk Casey Moore presented Ours with an inscribed oar, thanking him on behalf of the city.
"Mr. Ours will be missed by every citizen of Leesburg and by every citizen of Lee County," Quinn said.
Rynders, who lauded Ours as a man worthy of trust, said the administrator's departure signifies a huge loss for the county.
"You can tell how popular someone is by looking at the crowd that comes out to honor him," Rynders said. "I look out at this gathering, and I see respect. And these are not all employees worried about their jobs and their future. These are friends."
Duffy, who presented Ours a plaque on behalf of the Commission, said Ours was "the best thing to happen to Lee County in many, many years." He recounted a number of accomplishments that came under Ours' watch.
"Alan brought a lot of innovative ideas here, but the thing that impressed me most about him was his personal concern for our county employees," Duffy said. "That impresses me more than you can imagine."
An emotional Ours, who fought to maintain his composure in closing remarks, singled out Sizemore for his efforts in bringing Ours to Lee County.
"I remember when we talked about your vision for Lee County," Ours said, addressing Sizemore personally. "I think you can see some of that vision has come to fruition."
Ours praised the current Commission, saying it was the best he'd ever worked with, and he repeated the county's recently adopted slogan: "Life does work well in Lee County."
"When you leave a place with the experiences I've had in Lee County, you don't remember the bad," Ours said. "You remember the good things. Lee County has been good for me and good for my family. It will always have a special place in my heart."