3 county leaders leaving
Varner, Fleming, Laster moving on from BOC

COVINGTON - Tuesday night marked the last time the current Board of Commissioners will meet.

With Chairman Aaron Varner and commissioners Ester Fleming and Monty Laster not returning to their posts next year, there were lots of goodbyes and best wishes handed out.

Fleming and Laster each thanked their families, county employees and their fellow board members.

"At times we've had our differences, but one thing we've always done is we've always shook hands and walked out because we did what was best for the county," said Fleming, who is retiring from the District 3 post after serving two terms. Nancy Schulz will fill his seat starting in the new year.

Laster said his time as District 5 commissioner has been "somewhat of a life-changing experience."

"We're dealing with people's lives, people's safety. A lot of the issues we deal with are very, very important. I think the board has done a very responsible duty with those efforts," he said.

Laster was appointed to fill the unexpired term of the late Billy Strickland in early 2004. He was elected to a four-year term later that year. He decided not to run again in order to devote more time to his family and volunteer work.

Laster promised to stay active in the community through organizations such as Hands On Newton, the Newton County Cemetery Committee and Friends of Newton Parks.

Ester Fleming's son, Tim, was elected to fill the District 5 post.

Varner gave a short and sweet goodbye after the meeting.

"It's been a pleasure. It's been an honor and a pleasure. I don't want to get misty-eyed," he said.

Varner has served two terms as chairman.

He lost his bid for re-election to Kathy Morgan.

The three departing board members were also given high praise by those remaining.

"We've truly put forth a team effort, and we're going to miss the three of you, but you can go home tonight knowing Newton County is better than it was eight years ago," said District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing, who made a successful bid for his third term in office.

He also offered a suggestion on how Varner can fill his free time.

"Mr. Chairman, I don't know what your plans are, but after eight years experience reading the county checks, there's not an auction company in Georgia that wouldn't be more than happy to have you," he said, referring to Varner's signature rapid-fire style of reading through check numbers at every meeting.

District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson and District 2 Commissioner Earnest Simmons also gave their best wishes, along with the Rev. Forrest Sawyer, who commended the board for improving the quality of life for all people in the county.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.