Dougherty Commission Chair Jeff Sinyard leaves large shoes to fill

ALBANY HERALD EDITORIAL: Jeff Sinyard proved to be an able successor to Gil Barrett as chair of the commission

Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff “Bodine” Sinyard dropped quite the bombshell at the County Commission meeting Monday morning.

It was apparent at the meeting and from conversations with others following that meeting that if anyone knew he was going to announce his intention not to run for a fifth term on the commission — and fourth as chairman — they were in a small, select group.

At the meeting, Sinyard took the unusual step of asking to be allowed to read from a prepared statement. After talking up public service, progress that has been made during his time on the Board of Commissioners and the benefits and duty of promoting the community, the chairman shocked those in attendance.

“Change is inevitable,” he said, reading from the statement, “and there comes a time when more focus and energy on my family and business is important. My wife, Lillie, and our three sons — Bridges, Stuart and Beau — have given so much with their constant support. For that, I am forever grateful.

“I have been struggling with the decision on whether or not to seek re-election. It is now clear that I must put my family and business first and change the form of my public service. I will continue to work hard to move Dougherty County forward throughout my final year as chairman and, going forward, will remain active on the local and state boards on which I currently serve. I am comfortable with this transition because I know we have those in our community with the skills necessary to be our next County Commission chair and have confidence in the voters of Dougherty County to choose the right person.”

Indeed, that is the question that will have tremendous impact with its answer. In his 12th year as chairman, Sinyard has provided stability as the chairman of the commission, following the two decades in which Gil Barrett wielded the gavel.

In fact, Barrett, who died 3 1/2 years ago, may have given his successor the best advice any politician ever gave another. In 2003, as Sinyard was beginning his second commission term and first as chair, Barrett expressed confidence that Sinyard would be up to the task. “Chairman Jeff Sinyard,” Barrett said, “will do a good job as long as he doesn’t try to please everyone.”

And Sinyard has done just that. He certainly hasn’t pleased everyone, but he just as certainly has done a good — most would argue outstanding — job in leading the commission. Sinyard is recognized around the state as one who has the respect of other elected officials, regardless of party affiliation. He has been an effective, well-liked ambassador for his county. Politics can create choppy waters, but he has sailed them smoothly.

It may be that Sinyard finds another avenue of public service somewhere in the political realm. We hope so.

But more immediately, as the shock waves rolled through the political community Monday, we have no doubt that potential candidates are already doing the math to see if it adds up to a possible run for the chairmanship. We hope that Sinyard is correct in his assessment that a capable replacement is ready and that the voters will have the wisdom to vote him or her into office. Whomever wields the gavel that was held by Sinyard or Barrett for the past three decades has some large shoes to fill.

The Albany Herald Editorial Board