SOCIAL CIRCLE — Mayor Jim Burgess will not seek re-election this year.
"When I moved to Social Circle, I had not planned to be mayor, but I was asked to run, so I did," Burgess said Monday. "It's 14 years later, and it's time for me to move on and move to the next phase of my life and let the city develop new leadership."
After retiring in 1995 as executive director of the Georgia Municipal Association, Burgess and his wife, Madeline, moved to Social Circle the following year. He was elected mayor in 1997.
Burgess easily identified several accomplishments throughout his 14-year tenure, including overseeing the completion of part of the bypass around the city with the second half to be completed in 2012.
"What I'm most proud of is fact that we had such a unified city council. We've worked so well together in the 14 years I have served as mayor; I have never had to break a tie," he said, pointing out that the mayor only votes in the case of a tie between the four council members. "So, I've never had to vote."
Burgess also said he is proud that Social Circle is in sound financial health with a low tax rate. He said a number of projects, including upgrading water and sewer infrastructure and creating the Department of Public Safety, which combined police, 911 and fire services, have improved operations in the city.
Burgess also placed a good deal of emphasis on economic development projects in Social Circle during his time in office. He pointed to beautification of the city cemetery, creation of parks and greenspace and opening Memorial Drive as a new crosstown street as accomplishments that have improved quality of life in Social Circle.
"Of course, I would be remiss not to mention our primary economic development initiatives with Solo Cup and General Mills," Burgess said.
He said Social Circle competed with the city of Macon for General Mills' 1.5 million square foot distribution center that opened in 2010. The facility is the largest industrial LEED Gold facility in the United States, and the second largest in the world, Burgess said.
In 2006, Solo Cup built a 1.3 million square foot distribution center on East Hightower Trail in the city limits of Social Circle.
Looking ahead, Burgess said economic development of the downtown area will be critical for the city's future. He said the city is in the beginning stages of implementing a downtown revitalization plan, but moving that forward will be important for the next mayor. He said revitalizing the old mill village in the city will likewise be a necessary project.
Another opportunity I see for the city is to develop an effective intergovernmental relationship with Newton County and Covington because our growth is in that direction," Burgess said.
Once he completes his term, Burgess said he plans to continue to do lobbying work for the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the city of Savannah. He said he would like to reopen a law office in Social Circle where he would return to his roots and focus on municipal law, along with some business law and estate planning.
Burgess said his wife of 43 years has been a great support and adviser during his time as mayor. He said with her background as a financial analyst with the city of Atlanta and an assistant director in the Fulton County Planning Department, Madeline Burgess' advice has been of great value.
To date, two candidates have announced they plan to run for mayor in November: City Councilman David Keener and Hosea Jackson. Qualifying for municipal offices will be open from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2.