Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard prepares for Mondays commission meeting at the downtown Government Center. (Staff Photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — Before Monday’s Dougherty County Commission meeting, District 1 Commissioner Lamar Hudgens pointed to a rather slim agenda and quipped, “Slim pickings today.”
Turns out the commissioner couldn’t have been more wrong.
Hudgens admitted he was among those surprised by Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard’s emotional announcement that he would not seek a return to office after his current term ends at the end of the year.
Sinyard had to compose himself emotionally before telling those gathered, “I don’t usually read stuff like this, but I’d like to read this.”
He then stunned most in the audience by announcing his planned departure from county politics at the end of the year. He has served 15 years on the commission and 11 as chairman.
“Over the years, I have walked almost every street in Albany and Dougherty County and have become familiar with the people who live, work and raise their families in our community,” Sinyard read. “That is what I love most about public service: the great people and relationships I have had the opportunity to make.
“While working with my colleagues on the Dougherty County Commission, other elected officials and business leaders, we have seen great progress in our community over the last few years. This makes me extremely proud as I have strived to be a good steward of our taxpayers’ resources and to maintain the trust of our citizens. I have enjoyed being able to sell, promote and market all that Albany and Dougherty County have to offer, from the warmth and hospitailty of our residents to the great corporate citizens who continue to grow and call our area home.”
Sinyard then dropped the bomb that few had seen coming.
“Change is inevitable, and there comes a time when more focus and energy on my family and business is important,” the chairman read. “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.”
Following the meeting, after collecting hugs from his fellow commissioners, county officials and other citizens, Sinyard said his decision to leave the commission was the hardest he’s ever made.
“This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he said. “This committee is part of my DNA. I guess all this will settle in later, but right now I’m a little numb. It’s been such a privilege to do this for so long, to serve the people of this community, but I felt it was time to devote more time to my family and my business.
“I’ve been going back and forth on this for the last several months, talking with my family, some of my close friends and praying a lot. It was just a tough decision to make.”
The general primary election for Sinyard’s seat, and for Districts 2, 4 and 6 on the commission and on the Dougherty Board of Education, will be held May 20, county Elections Superviser Ginger Nickerson said Monday. The dates were set Monday by Gov. Nathan Deal to coincide with federal election dates, Nickerson said.
The general primary runoff date is July 22, and the general election will be held Nov. 4. The state’s general election runoff date is set for Dec. 2. Cost for the chairman’s and commission seats were set at $324 and $288, respectively, by the commission Monday.