LaGRANGE — City Councilman Bobby Traylor said goodbye this week after 20 years of elected service to the residents of LaGrange.
Traylor, who was first elected in 1995 and took office in January 1996, was defeated in November’s City Council election by challenger Mark Mitchell, who will be sworn in at council’s next meeting on Jan. 12.
Reflecting on his time in office during a council work session Tuesday, Traylor praised the city’s staff for their tireless work and dedication to their jobs.
“They’re the ones that make us look good,” he said to the rest of council and Mayor Jim Thornton.
Traylor said he was proud of many accomplishments, including the redevelopment of downtown LaGrange and the elimination of city property taxes, instead using utility revenues to fund the city’s general budget.
“One thing I’m most proud of is that we’ve had no property tax for the past 20 years,” he told the Daily News. “When Jeff Lukken was on the council, he wanted to see if the city could operate without property tax. … All the council members agreed 100 percent that if we could operate it without the burden on the property owners, we’d do it.”
He said that not every decision made by the council during his tenure was as popular, but he’s glad to see the way most projects have turned out.
“One thing that really caused a lot of heartburn was when we demolished the old post office,” he said of the iconic building that once stood where the entrance to the Carmike LaGrange 10 movie theater stands today.
“There was a lot of opposition, but that was a good move. With doing that, we got downtown really going again through the help of the Callaway Foundation. It really was a big improvement.”
Not every project he’s proud of during the past 20 years was a brick-and-mortar investment, though. For two years in the early 2000s, the city was able to broker a partnership with Charter Communications to provide free Internet access for two years to every home with cable TV service.
“We partnered with Charter and through partnering with them, we got the Internet cable, the fiber we wanted and we gave everybody in LaGrange with cable TV free Internet for two years. You got a box connected to your TV and you could surf the Internet.”
Traylor also said the city staff’s ingenuity has helped provide a business-friendly environment that’s fostered growth and development. He cited the city’s use of methane-capturing technology at the municipal landfill. The gas is piped to local industrial facilities for energy generation.
“It’s been an honor and privileged to serve because I was surrounded by mayors and a city manager who had vision and forethought,” he said of the methane-capturing project.
The 79 year old said he plans to stay busy following his exit from City Council.
“There’s never been a time in 69 years that my family hasn’t had a business license in the city of LaGrange,” Traylor said. “We’ve contributed a lot to the city.”
He said he hopes to continue to support economic growth in the area.
“I enjoy the chamber of commerce and helping new businesses,” he said. “I plan on continuing to show support for any new business. I plan to stay busy.”
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.