Photo by Curt Yeomans
Outgoing Morrow Mayor Jim Millirons (second from left) hands over the city’s mayoral gavel to new Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke (right) during a transfer of power ceremony on Tuesday at a city council meeting.
Technically, Tuesday night’s gathering of the Morrow City Council was a business meeting, but it was in reality one long going away party for outgoing Mayor James “Jim” Millirons as he formally stepped down from the seat he’s held for the last 16 years.
The turning over of power in the city, from Millirons, to new Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke drew a rare standing-room-only crowd in the Morrow City Council Chambers. Several members of each man’s family, as well as many city employees, and some former and current elected officials attended the event.
The key moment came early in the meeting, when Millirons handed the mayor’s gavel over to Burke after the new mayor was sworn in by Municipal Court Judge Ronald Freeman.
“It is my pleasure to pass this on to you,” Millirons told Burke, as they officially transferred power. “I feel very comfortable leaving the city in your hands.”
Tuesdays pomp and circumstance represented a new chapter in the city’s history, simply because of how long Millirons had been a part of Morrow’s government. Before he was mayor, he served as city manager and as a city council member. In all, he has been a part of the city’s leadership for more than 30 years. And, that was after a 23-year career as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army.
“We’ve mentioned a lot of the stuff he did, but what stands out in my mind is his military service,” said Councilmember Bob Huie. “He’s not only served the City of Morrow. He’s served our country.”
The meeting and reception that followed, was attended by approximately 200 people, with several public officials in attendance, including Forest Park Mayor Corine Deyton, former State Sen. Gail Buckner, Clayton State University President Tim Hynes, Clayton County Chamber of Commerce President Yulonda Beaufort, and Clayton County Commissioner Michael Edmondson.
Burke also read a State Senate proclamation that recognized Millirons for his years of public service in Morrow. City Fire Chief Mark Herendeen presented the outgoing mayor with a “chief’s” fire helmet and a Morrow Fire Department T-Shirt. Greg Tatroe, the city’s interim police chief, then gave Millirons a shadowbox filled with patches from the police department’s various units.
Several city officials, including Burke, members of the city council, and City Manager Jeff Eady, offered praise for Millirons. The council presented a proclamation, recognizing him for his leadership, including making sure the city dealt with recent economic hardships without cutting city services. The proclamation also declares that, from now on, Jan. 10 will be known in the city as James H. Millirons Day.
“It’s been a pleasure to serve with Jim Millirons,” said Councilmember Virlyn Slayton. “Unless you’ve been there, and been in his shoes, I don’t think you realize how much he means to the City of Morrow, or how hard he’s worked for the City of Morrow, to bring us to where we are ... We’re the best of the best, and I think we owe a lot of that to Jim Millirons.”
Burke shared a personal anecdote about Millirons, and how the former mayor came to help the new mayor after Burke was involved in a car accident that left him in Grady Memorial Hospital, in Atlanta, for several weeks last fall.
“During in-and-out of consciousness, I didn’t know who to call on, and I called on him, and he was there,” Burke said.
After the meeting, long-time Morrow resident, Jim Duckworth, reminisced about how he could recall Millirons’ first council meeting — as city manager, his first position in Morrow government — in 1975. “The city’s grown a lot since then, but it just doesn’t seem like it’s been all that long ago,” Duckworth said.
Millirons offered a few words of thanks at the beginning of the meeting, expressing his gratitude to residents and employees, as well as his family.
“I will forever be grateful and indebted to this community,” he said, “and all of the employees for working so hard to maintain the quality of life. I’d like to give a quote that is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, and it is, ‘In the end, it’s not the years of your life, but the life in your years.’ I think that applies to all of us ... And now, it’s my pleasure to present to you all your next mayor, Joseph Burke.”
After he transferred power to Burke, the former mayor rode his wheelchair off the dias, and took a seat in the audience with his wife, Peggy.
He had become just a citizen, watching his city’s government in action.