Morrow Mayor James “Jim” Millirons (center) prepares to lead local children in a ribbon-cutting event in the city, in this 1997 file photo. Millirons is preparing to step down as the city’s mayor at the end of 2011.
Even though he needs a wheelchair to get around these days, make no mistake about it — Morrow Mayor James “Jim” Millirons is still in command of his city at the spry young age of 80.
Just this week, Millirons held court in the living room of his home to meet with representatives of the Morrow Business and Tourism Association, to give the thumbs up, or thumbs down, to plans they are assembling for an upcoming event. The mayor, who was nursing an ear ache, sat in a recliner, with his legs propped up in his wheelchair.
But the days of Millirons being the head of Morrow’s government will soon come to end. After 16 years as Morrow’s mayor, Millirons will hand over the mayor’s office to Joseph “J.B.” Burke on Jan. 10, and go as close to retirement as he can get when he has been involved in his city’s government, in various jobs, since the 1970’s.
“I’m not leaving the city, and the city’s not leaving me,” Millirons said. “I’m going to make sure I’m kept abreast of what the hell’s going on.”
Millirons’ retirement brings an end to more than three decades of public service in Morrow. He was the city manager from 1975 to 1983, a city councilman from 1987 to 1995, and mayor from 1996 to the end of 2011.
And, his political career began after he retired from a 23-year career as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army, where he earned a variety of awards, including the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and three Distinguished Flying Crosses. “I’ve had a very bountiful, and enjoyful life,” he said.
In the last three decades, he said, he has overseen the construction of Morrow’s City Hall, met a U.S. president, guided walking trails expansion, and welcomed a national archives and a state archives to the city.
The mayor said his Army experiences taught him his employees need to like him, if he wanted to be a good manager. “To me, it’s an absolute necessity for a good leader to gain the respect of those working for you,” he said.
Morrow Mayor Pro Tempore Bob Huie, who replaced Millirons on the city council in 1995, called the outgoing mayor a “legacy.” He added that he felt one of the mayor’s biggest impacts on Morrow was working with former Clayton State University President Richard Skinner, in the late 1990’s, and early 2000’s, to lure the national and state archives to the city. “They were very instrumental in getting the archives here,” Huie said.
Lake City Mayor Willie Oswalt, a long-time friend of Millirons, said the outgoing mayor has always been someone the other mayors in Clayton County could count on for support. “He studies issues, and knows what he needs to do,” Oswalt said. “And, if you wanted him to back you up, you could count on his support ...
“It’ll be strange to not look over [during Clayton County Municipal Association meetings] and see him sitting there.”
Millirons has plenty of stories to tell, whether it be tales of his service during two tours of duty in Vietnam, or recollections of various events in his political career.
Two stories he is quick to recall date back to his time as city manager. Millirons said he was recognized, in approximately 1980, by then-President Jimmy Carter. “I got a personal award from Jimmy Carter, at the White House, for the energy efficiency and conservation efforts of the city, and its residents,” Millirons said.
Another, more unusual story, involves the construction of the Morrow City Hall building, in 1976. Millirons said city government had been largely operating out of trailers at the time, and he had the city buy an old Kroger grocery store location on Ga. Hwy. 54, and renovate it into a new city hall.
While the building was under renovation, then-Mayor Rosco Trivett fired the town’s city clerk. Millirons said the clerk’s 15-year-old son then decided to take out his frustrations over his mother’s firing on the new city hall — with his car.
“I think he intended to drive in through one door in the lobby, and out the other,” Millirons said. “But the floor was slippery and it had all of this shattered glass on it, so he ended up running into the handmade wooden doors [that led to the city council chambers] ... We had a ... Volkswagen in the lobby of city hall.”
Millirons said his only regrets as mayor stem from former City Manager/former City Councilman John Lampl’s handling of the Olde Towne Morrow development. The development was intended to be a new shopping district in the city, but it cost the city millions of dollars to build, while its revenues only totaled about $10,000. A long list of problems, including fire code violations, also existed.
It was shut down by city officials a year ago, and Lampl has been indicted on a long list of charges related to the development’s creation. “It turned out to be a damn nightmare,” Millirons said. He declined to comment further, on the record, about Lampl or Olde Towne, because of the ongoing criminal case against Lampl.
Despite the Olde Towne blemish, Millirons said he has been pleased overall with the city’s growth during his tenure as mayor. “It’s had tremendous growth, and quality growth that I insisted on,” he said.
He said he plans to spend his retirement with his wife of 35 years, Peggy, doing some writing, and some genealogical research, but he added that he will stay somewhat involved in Morrow politics.
“I have a feeling that, for some time, that I will be asked to be some part of it, because I’ve just go so much history,” he said. “I don’t feel I’ll be divorced from it.”