0302MYGaudJohnny Thomas, public works director in Flowery Branch, talks about his job.
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FLOWERY BRANCH — He was raised around chickens, keeps a few in the yard of his North Hall home and has items in his office with a poultry design.
But Johnny Thomas has spent his working life, or most of it, at least, overseeing the upkeep of streets, ditches and other public properties in Flowery Branch.
"I went to work in the poultry business and stayed in that until 1989, when I first came here," he said.
Thomas, 50, was born in White County, his family moving to Hall County when he was 3. He spent his schooling years in Flowery Branch and Oakwood.
"Daddy would move the chicken farm down here to the south end (of the county) and we’d stay here two years, raise them out, then go to one in Oakwood," he said. "When we first came down, we lived right where Gainesville (State) College is."
Thomas left the poultry business after the company he was working for moved its Gainesville operation to Dalton.
"They wanted me to move to Dalton and I didn’t want to relocate," he said. "I was living here in town then, mom and dad lived next door and ... my children were all pretty small."
Thomas was hired by Flowery Branch originally to drive a garbage truck. Toward the end of 1990, he resigned and ran for Flowery Branch City Council.
He lost the election, then returned to work. He later took over as public works director.
Thomas stayed with the city until 1995. After about three months, "the mayor at the time called me and wanted me to come back, so I came back."
In 2005, he left again to work as public works supervisor in Commerce. He stayed there about eight months before returning — this time to stay — to Flowery Branch.
Over the years, he has watched as the town has changed from a sleepy hamlet with one or two traffic lights to a bustling city with shopping centers, large neighborhoods and the potential for explosive growth.
"The City Hall side of the railroad tracks is pretty close to the way it looked back in the day," he said. "It hasn’t changed a whole lot."
The growth burst wasn’t much of a surprise for Thomas.
"Being between Atlanta and Gainesville, it’s going to come this way," he said.
Thomas oversees a crew of four people. He has one position open, but the economic slowdown has put a freeze on that job being filled.
He said he likes his job, particularly the lack of routine.
"Something busts in the middle of the night, we’ve got to come out and put in back together," Thomas said. "... It’s an adventure every day. When you go out to dig something up, you never know what you’re going to find."
He likens his work to a second home, "even though I’ve left a few times."
"I plan to hang out as long as I can," said Thomas, who is married and has three grown sons and six grandchildren. "This is a pretty good place to be."