Tuesday was an important day in local government in Georgia as two of the oldest municipal officials in the state were sworn in for service in Helen and Lula.
In Lula, incumbent Councilman Mordecai Wilson, 92, was sworn in to begin his fifth term of service to the residents of that city.
Roughly 30 miles away, Geneva S. Elwell, 90, took her oath to return to city government for the first time in years. Elwell joined new city commissioners Steve Fowler and Lee Landress in taking their oaths prior to Tuesday’s meeting.
Elwell was elected in November and takes office a month before her 91st birthday.
“I’m looking forward to doing as good a job as the present commissioners have done,” Elwell said. “They have really done an outstanding job, and I feel honored to be elected to city council.”
The two are believed to be the oldest municipal elected officials in the state, according to the Georgia Municipal Association.
Elwell’s roots in Helen predate the city’s current Alpine Village theme by more than four decades, but her love for the city and its beauty has always been there.
“I was born and raised here in Helen, with the exception of 20 years when I moved to Augusta,” Elwell said. “I came back, built a motel and operated it for 28 years. I’ve been very active in the community as far as the library, the welcome center. As a matter of fact, I was once a councilman.”
Elwell, who has worked the polls during elections in White County for 30 years, credits those who have served before her on the Helen City Commission for the firm foundation she and other commissioners are inheriting, including $5.5 million in the bank and $1.5 million in projects underway.
“They have really, really done an outstanding job,” Elwell said.
Major projects in progress include linking the Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail with the city’s existing sidewalks, replacement of the northbound pedestrian bridge over the Chattahoochee River, construction of the Helen Veterans Park, and replacement of a major water line in the southern part of town.
“I’m looking forward to the Hardman Trail – getting it finished; our bridge, which we need very bad; and just beautifying our beautiful town of Helen,” Elwell said.
Elwell knows that beautification is key for a tourist city like Helen, the third most-visited destination in Georgia.
Just as Elwell wants to build on Helen’s solid foundation during her service, Wilson wants to continue to contribute to Lula and its residents as long as he is able.
“That is my goal,” Wilson said following Tuesday morning’s swearing-in ceremony. “Whatever time God allows me to remain on this earth, I want to turn around and see how many people I can help to get up the road, like people have helped me from my youth up to this very moment. I wouldn’t be where I am if it hadn’t been for people. I always say, before you can withdraw from the bank you’ve got to make a deposit.”
Wilson, who lives in the Banks County portion of the city, said he didn’t get where he is on his own, but rather had a lot of help along the way.
“First, I give a lot of credit to God, then second to my parents,” Wilson said. “Then the wonderful people in my life that could see more in me than I could see. The fourth would always be my late wife, who was always so faithful and understanding and supportive for 64-1/2 years.”
AccessWDUN News Director B.J. Williams contributed to this report.