Hall County held a reception before its 6 p.m. Board of Commissioners meeting to honor outgoing Chairman Tom Oliver and District 4 Commissioner Ashley Bell.
Their colleagues expressed warm regard for the departing commissioners.
District 1 Commissioner Craig Lutz said that while he had his differences with Oliver at first, the past two years changed that entirely.
“I have found him not only to be a very passionate, convicted person, but he is exceptionally intelligent,” Lutz said.
“It’s always sad to see folks leave,” District 2 Commissioner Scott Gibbs said. “I’ve enjoyed working with both of them. But I think I’ll have a good working relationship with the new folks.”
Bell expressed the unique challenges of the diverse board.
“We have a very diverse county — between North Hall, the city, East Hall, South Hall — with very different interests, and very different opinions about service delivery,” he said.
Bell said he is pleased the incoming commissioners face a less stark economic situation.
“This next commission has the benefit of a lot of tough decisions that were made during my time,” he said.
The next board of commissioners will be looking at a $5 million budget surplus. Two years ago, the board faced plugging an $11.5 million deficit.
Oliver leaves behind a 12-year legacy of service to the board of commissioners, eight as chairman.
District 2 Commissioner Billy Powell praised Oliver’s leadership capacity.
“He’s a true visionary; he thinks outside the box,” Powell said.
Bell, who was the youngest person to ever serve on the board of commissioners, more than likely will be seen again, Lutz said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in the future. I believe he truly has a desire to serve the public — it’s not just about being in the spotlight,” Lutz said. “I don’t think he’s going to unplug from politics.”