?The Queen of Trash'

By Billy Corriher

Edie Yongue has a pretty big job description n cleaning up Clayton County. Yongue is the director of Keep Clayton County Beautiful, an organization that works to keep the county free of litter and educates residents about environmental issues.

The organization holds events for America Recycles Day, Amnesty Day, and holds an annual fish fry to raise money.

The organization sponsors many roads through the "Adopt a Highway" program, and gets volunteers involved.

"We do the (Adopt a Highway) program so that when people are disgruntled with how things look, they can help out," Yongue said.

Yongue, 57, said the group members are not afraid to get dirty themselves by helping to clean up roads and highways in the county.

"They call me the queen of trash," she said. "It's an affectionate nickname."

The organization also teaches people that the environment and the appearance of the county affects all its residents, she said. Yongue explains that if residents allow their neighborhoods to look bad, it reflects poorly on the area.

"We need to inundate this community with the idea that that kind of thing is not acceptable," she said.

"I'm like a big mama hen I guess," she said with a laugh. "I'm gonna take 250,000 folks (in Clayton County) under my wing and tell them to clean up."

Yongue has been in charge of Keep Clayton County Beautiful for 18 years. She said she became involved because of a love of nature that she inherited from her father, who was an avid deer hunter and game warden.

"My daddy gave me a real appreciation of the outdoors and the environment," she said.

Now, Yongue said she tries to get others to appreciate the environment for the good of the community.

"I've had a good life, so I hope I can contribute to a better quality of life for other people," she said.

Since Yongue took over the organization, the county has experienced explosive growth and she said it's been tougher to keep clean.

"It's important that we all learn to live together among all this urban sprawl," she said.

As the county has grown, Yongue said it has seen a more transient population, meaning many people aren't aware of the county's rules about what they can put in their yards and where they can dump trash.

But she said Keep Clayton County Beautiful goes around to subdivisions and gives out information on the county's rules, and will even pick up bulky items like appliances for people without access to a pick-up truck.

Yongue said her job requires a lot of hours and can be tough sometimes, but she loves it and doesn't plan on slowing down any time soon.

"I'll be here for a while," she said. "They'll probably have me out here with a cane planting flowers on the side of (U.S. Highway) 19/41."