Mayor Sheridan's life and legacy

COVINGTON — Newborn Mayor Roger Sheridan died at Athens Regional Medical Center Tuesday at the age of 92. Sheridan reportedly slipped into a coma after suffering a massive heart attack.

In 2009 Sheridan became the mayor of Newborn at the age of 88, and was then reelected for a second term in November of this year. Though not officially confirmed, Sheridan is believed to have been the oldest serving mayor in Georgia.

“(Sheridan) running for mayor for the first time at the age of 88 was remarkable,” said Georgia Municipal Association spokeswoman Amy Henderson.

Henderson said Sheridan was known for his tactful, personal way of running Newborn. After he was elected, Sheridan went from door to door to speak to the town residents about what they would like have done for their community.

For Sheridan, serving as mayor was personal. He was known to work several hours a day at Town Hall and to field calls from residents on the weekends.

“I’m not a politician. I was elected to office to serve the people,” he said during an interview with the Citizen soon after his 90th birthday in January 2011.

“Sheridan accomplished numerous feats during his time as mayor,” said Newborn Town Clerk Elisa Rowe.

One of the first things Sheridan did after his election was establish a website for the town. He had a list of 19 major accomplishments that he and the council have achieved during their first year, including completion of the renovation of the historic schoolhouse, paving Country Creek Road after years of complaints from residents and establishing a precinct for a sheriff’s deputy and a Neighborhood Watch program.

When a tornado struck Newborn in 2011, Rowe reflected that he was not afraid to get his hands dirty cleaning the damage and debris from the storm. He ensured that nearly all trees lost in the tornado were replaced.

Henderson noted that along with the City Council, he was able to uncover $119,000 in unspent SPLOST funds and used the money to renovate an old schoolhouse into a community gathering spot.

Rowe credited Sheridan for his achievements in civil engineering. The Town Hall parking lot was paved and speed bumps were placed throughout the town during his term. He also had plans to make Newborn more pedestrian-friendly by placing new sidewalks near the Dollar General on Ga. Highway 142, and on South Johnson Street. The Dollar General location in Newborn would not have opened if Sheridan had not planned for it, she said.

One of his most commendable successes was paving all roads in Newborn that were not paved. Country Creek Road, Timberlake Drive, Robertson Road, Nelson Street, Field Street, Hilltop Drive, Valley Street, and Davis Road went from being dirt roads to paved streets under his term. He also attended classes in Atlanta for certification with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Sheridan’s aptitude for municipal engineering dates back to World War II, when he served as a combat engineer in the U.S. Army. “He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and served in General George S. Patton’s Third Army,” said friend Pete Mecca.

Sheridan was not known to back down from a challenge or shrink from adversity.

He faced many challenges in his life, and seemingly always rose to the occasion. He was 24 when in 1945 he helped liberate Buchenwald, a concentration camp outside Weimar, Germany, during World War II.

He suffered from two broken backs and survived colon cancer.

Sheridan worked in 32 countries in a span of a little more than 40 years, engineering airports, seaports, dry docks, dams and highways in places like Iran, Kazakhstan, China, Bangladesh, Greece and Ghana. He worked on the Akosombo Dam in Ghana, named the world’s deepest coffer dam in the 1976 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. The dam created the world’s largest man-made lake, Lake Volta, and was partially funded by America and Great Britain. Sheridan toured the dam with Ted Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II.

Despite all he accomplished in his life, Sheridan said in 2011 that his greatest accomplishment in life was his successful marriage and raising six children who are all succeeding in life.

“There’s no job I’ve done any place in the world that I would hesitate to take my family out there and say, ‘I built that. I did it with the help of the local people and we did it together,’” Sheridan said in 2011.

Sheridan is survived by his wife of 69 years, Shirley, four daughters and two sons. A memorial service at Caldwell and Cowan Funeral Home is planned for later next week, but a specific date has not been set.