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Locust Grove mayor to leave politics

Photo by Elaine Rackley
In the 1940's, Locust Grove Mayor Lorene Lindsey was the winner of numerous "Jitterbug" dance contests. In the 50's, she was a race car driver on dirt tracks in Atlanta and Florida. She has served as the city's mayor for more than a decade.

Photo by Elaine Rackley In the 1940's, Locust Grove Mayor Lorene Lindsey was the winner of numerous "Jitterbug" dance contests. In the 50's, she was a race car driver on dirt tracks in Atlanta and Florida. She has served as the city's mayor for more than a decade.

By Elaine Rackley

erackley@henryherald.com

Locust Grove Mayor Lorene Lindsey has announced she will not seek re-election, after serving as mayor for more than a decade.

Lindsey, 88, has been in office since she won her first mayoral race in 1999. At that time, she was married to her husband, Jake, who died, Feb. 10, 2002. The couple never had children.

The couple owned and operated Lindsey's Supermarket for 39 years. She also worked for the federal government for 36 years at Fort Gillem, in Forest Park.

Lindsey said the "timing was right," when she initially ran for mayor.

"The Lord was blessing me, but I didn't know it at the time."

It was not until she won the election, Lindsey said, that she learned she was the first female mayor of Locust Grove. "Being mayor, and losing Jake, gave me the opportunity to devote a lot of time to my job," she said. "If I were to run for office again, I would be 93."

Although retiring from politics, she still exudes energy, and enthusiasm for life. When asked what will she do after leaving office, she responded: "I am going to travel and do volunteer work, with United Way, Connecting Henry and Meals on Wheels."

In her spare time, she enjoys playing computer card games, such as solitaire and "free cell."

Lindsey has maintained an open-door policy at her office in the historic Locust Grove City Hall building. "I am here for what I can do for the people," she said. "I will be here until my predecessor is sworn into office."

Her office is filled, wall-to-wall, with some of the 100-plus awards she has received over the years, including Citizen of the Year for Locust Grove and Henry County.

She has served on numerous boards, committees and programs, including the Atlanta Regional Commission's Aging Task Force, the Council on Aging, and Surplus Food Distribution.

"Helping others has always been my passion," said Lindsey.

"One of the things that stands out for me [about Lindsey] is her commitment to seniors," said Tim Young, Locust Grove's community development director. "She fought for a facility for seniors in the Locust Grove/South Henry County area," Young said.

"My goal while in office, was to retain the old, and incorporate the new," said the mayor. "Growth, we could not stop. But we can have quality growth. That meant we had to have realistic ordinances in place, in order to encourage quality growth."

The city's population has doubled since Lindsey took office, growing from 2,200 residents, to 5,500. "She has been crucial in shaping the modern city of Locust Grove," said Young. In 1999, the city was only 2.2 square miles. "In the past decade, it has grown nearly 500 percent to 10.8 square miles."

Lindsey noted that one of her accomplishments as mayor included preparing the city for future growth by upgrading its infrastructure.

"When I took office, we had an antiquated sewer system," she said.

Locust Grove's water system had been fed by one spring and one well, she explained. It was under her tenure in 2007, when genealogists discovered five areas from which to draw water into the city, in order to install a new sewer system, according to the mayor.

"Our infrastructure will take care of Locust Grove for the next 30 to 40 years," she said, proudly.

Locust Grove Police Chief Jesse Patton said he has known Lindsey for 23 years. "I can still remember when she first came into office, she met with all of the city employees and supervisors, to let us all know the way she would manage the city, was that everything had to be documented, because if it wasn't on paper, it didn't happen," said Patton. " I also remember her saying you can either get on the wagon, or jump off."

Lindsey was born in Portedale, Ga., and grew up in Atlanta, near where the West End Mall now sits. She remembers the trolley cars that used to travel city streets, the once-regal Lowe's Grand Theater, and the Old King Cole Bakery.

In the 1940s, she owned a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and was the winner of numerous Jitterbug contests. "That was the only thing that I felt like I was really talented in," said Lindsey. "I was a good dancer, I could really dance."

In the 1950s, she raced a 1940 Ford Coupe, #17, around the dirt tracks -- at the Lakewood race track in Atlanta, and in Daytona, Fla. "I would win, competing against women," she said. "The Florida track was near the beach back then."

Locust Grove Downtown Development Coordinator Linda Hutchison said she has been impressed with Lindsey's ability to get the job done.

"I knew Mayor Lindsey several years before I came to work in Locust Grove," said Hutchison. "She loves Locust Grove, and she works hard to make things happen for her city. I tell everyone, I have to wear my tennis shoes to keep up with her high heels."