By Jason A. Smith
Most government operations in Stockbridge will be put on hold today and Wednesday, in memory of Ted Strickland, Mayor Lee Stuart has announced.
Strickland, who has served as the Stockbridge city manager for two decades, died Sunday at age 77.
His family will receive friends today, from 2 p.m., to 4 p.m., and 6 to 8 p.m., at Cannon Cleveland Funeral Directors in McDonough. A funeral service is scheduled for Wednesday, at 11 a.m., at Flippen United Methodist Church.
Strickland suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, a condition which causes scarring or thickening of the lungs, and a "weak heart," according to his wife of 52 years, Nancy Strickland.
"He's been in and out of the hospital since January," she said. "He was ready. He was tired and had struggled with breathing problems."
Ted Strickland's medical condition, his wife continued, worsened in recent weeks, forcing him to retire as city manager on March 1. Representatives from Sacred Journey Hospice provided in-home care for him after he retired, she said.
Ted Strickland was born in Greenville, Ga., and lived in Woodbury, Ga., for the first 19 years of his life. He graduated from Georgia Southwestern College in 1954, and Georgia Teachers College in 1956. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1957, the same year he married. He served in the military until 1959, during which time he was an intramural sports director at Fort Meade, Md.
Strickland obtained a master's degree in 1972 from West Georgia College, and a specialist's degree from Georgia State University in 1977, before beginning his career as an educator.
He taught and coached at Stockbridge Elementary School, from 1959 to 1964, and at Stockbridge High School, from 1964 to 1970. He also served as principal of Fairview Elementary School, from 1970 to 1972, and, Stockbridge Elementary School, from 1972 to 1980, before overseeing Henry County Schools as superintendent of the school district, from 1980 to 1988.
Nancy Strickland, 71, said her husband was a "wonderful, wonderful man," who worked as an educator to pass along his love of government to his students. That love, she added, was something he maintained as city manager, often inviting students to visit Stockbridge City Hall.
"He wanted them to know how government runs, and how it needs to run," she said. "He served not out of a desire for publicity, but because he wanted to serve the people and get things done."
Strickland was appointed city manager in 1990, by then-Mayor Rudy Kelley. Assistant City Manager Ray Gibson became acting city manager when Strickland retired.
Those who worked most closely with Strickland, praise him for his leadership skills, and his dedication to making the city a better place to live. Former Mayor Kelley called Strickland "one of my best friends," and a "dedicated" public servant.
"He was a straight shooter," said Kelley, 75, who has known Strickland for 50 years. "He treated everybody equally, and played no favorites. People always knew where they stood with him."
Current leaders lauded Strickland for his contributions to the city.
Stockbridge Mayor Lee Stuart said Strickland was "a great leader," who will "be sorely missed. He has deep roots here, and is very well respected," said Stuart.
Stockbridge City Clerk, Merle Manders, 73, has worked with Strickland for 20 years. She said he was a "hardworking, honest" man who loved the city he served. "He's Stockbridge, through and through," said Manders. "He's responsible for a lot of the growth, and the good things that have happened in Stockbridge."
Kay Pippin, president of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, said Strickland was a "true community leader," whose record in public service is "an example to us all.
"His work on behalf of the citizens of Stockbridge as manager of the City of Stockbridge, and his service as a former Henry County School superintendent, will long be remembered," Pippin said. "We will all feel the loss. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family and many friends."
In addition to his wife, Strickland is survived by his son, Scott, daughter-in-law, Kym, and two grandsons, Gage and Chayton.