‘At its finest’

Published 8:00 pm Monday, October 29, 2012

Mayor Jimmy Lunsford looks on with his family at the unveiling of the Troy Municipal sign, now named after the city’s first mayor under the mayor-council form of government. The unveiling followed a ceremony honoring Mayor Lunsford, where friends, peers, and family reflected on the past 30 years.

Hundreds gather to honor Troy’s first mayor

Temperatures dipped into the 50s and the wind howled, but it wasn’t enough to chill the warm spirits at Mayor Jimmy Lunsford’s retirement ceremony Monday evening.

Laughter and applause radiated throughout a tent set up near Troy’s municipal complex as guest after guest got up to share memories and good wishes for the public servant of 30 years.

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“If you can hold down a job in Troy for this long, you must have been doing something right,” joked hostess for the event, Tonya Terry.

Lunsford’s family was joined by close to 300 people who made an appearance during the three-hour reception and ceremony for the man Gov. Bob Riley called “the best mayor in Alabama.”

“He’s a man who never quits working for the city,” said Rep. Alan Boothe of the mayor. “He never, never quits.”

Lunsford was presented with proclamations from Gov. Robert Bentley, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, the Pike County Commission and the mayor of Andalusia.

Longtime friend Kenny Campbell spoke about Lunsford’s “dedication, devotion and passion.”

“When this man is working on a project, he is a dynamo!” Campbell said. “This man eats, breathes and sleeps his job.”

Campbell turned to Lunsford, “If you look around, you’ve left your mark all over this whole town.”

“The difference you’ve made in our community has been phenomenal,” said Pike County Commissioner Robin Sullivan, adding that Lunsford’s recruitment of industry has been paramount to the community’s success. “You don’t take ‘no’ for an answer and you just go get it.”

Marsha Gaylard, president of the Pike County Economic Development Corporation, said Lunsford was well prepared to be an economic development mayor.

“He possesses the people skills to be able to work with people on every level to be successful,” Gaylard said.

Outgoing Troy Councilwoman Wanda Moultry said she appreciated Lunsford’s steadfastness.

“At any given time, you could have leaned one way or the other, but you stood strong,” Moultry said.

“We’ve had a tremendous ride,” said longtime friend and Troy City Councilmember Johnny Witherington. “History will speak to that and prove that.

“Jimmy has provided the kind of leadership this country needs on a very local level. During his time at the helm of the ship, Troy was at its finest.”

When Mayor-elect and current Councilmember Jason Reeves spoke, his words were reflective about what Lunsford had taught him, which may have included a little bit of the outgoing mayor’s sense of humor.

“I may be the only man in Alabama who has ever known what Ray Perkins felt like,” Reeves said of following Lunsford’s career filled with successes.

“If I am a success, a lot of it will have to do with the things I learned from you,” Reeves said. “No one has ever done as much for my hometown as you have and I am grateful for that.”

The mayor was presented with some tokens of gratitude throughout the event, including a collection of letters from community members, a rocking chair and a watch. But the biggest show of appreciation came with the unveiling of a sign at the corner of South Brundidge Street and Elm Street declaring the collection of city buildings “The Jimmy C. Lunsford Municipal Complex.”

“Thank God for my 30 years of service,” Lunsford said through tears as he looked around at everyone who gathered to wish him well in his retirement. “I’m thankful, and I do thank my God for allowing me to serve these 30 years in my wonderful, wonderful community.”