By Billy Corriher
After decades of public service, Clayton County Commissioner Gerald Matthews is leaving his seat on the board of commissioners.
"After 16 years on the board of commissioners, 11 years on the planning and zoning board, and 20 years of public service, I've decided not to seek reelection," Matthews said.
After talking with his family, Matthews said he wanted to step down so he could spend more time with his children and grandchildren.
"There's no doubt that I'm going to miss working around here," he said. "But my wife and I are looking forward to some real quality time together."
Matthews, 61, said he plans to keep working as manager of municipal marketing for Waste Management, where he has worked for 29 years, for at least three more years.
"I'm too young to quit working altogether," he said.
Matthews said his employer and his family have been supportive as his role as public servant has taken up much of his time over the years.
"I've spent as much time in the commissioners' office as I did at my other job," he said.
Matthews was first elected commissioner in 1984 but was defeated after his first term and reelected in 1992.
"The defeat in '88 made me, in my opinion, a better public servant than I would have been," he said. "I just think that it made me stand back and take a stronger look at the issues affecting our citizens."
Looking back on his tenure, Matthews said that many decisions he supported, like the county acquiring the Beach and passing the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, were criticized by some, but he thinks they were beneficial for the county.
"I think the Beach was a good investment," he said. "And I hope to see some of that SPLOST money go to good use before I leave office in December."
Matthews said the commissioners also faced a big challenge in staying afloat financially despite the recent economic slump.
"I'm also glad that I got to be a part of bringing the Olympics to Clayton County," he said.
Matthews said he isn't endorsing any candidate to replace him yet, but he could once he looks at all the candidates.
Matthews said he is supporting former Atlanta Police Chief Eldrin Bell for chairman of the county commissioners.
"I have nothing against (chairman candidate) Wade Starr, but I think Eldrin has the right contacts, and his philosophies run parallel to mine," he said. "I just think (Bell) is the person we need to lead us through the next four years."
During his tenure, Matthews said the county has benefited from great leadership from all its department heads.
"I hope that the incoming chairman, whoever he is, will be very careful in changing departmental personnel without a real good cause," he said.
Matthews said he'll miss all the county personnel and other county commissioners he has worked with over the years.
"I just want to say thank you to everybody in the county," he said. "I'm an emotional guy, and it's going to be a little sad when I leave. But it's time to move on."