Special Report: Mayor of Columbus talks final months in office

SPECIAL REPORT: Mayor of Columbus talks final months in office
Updated: May. 31, 2018 at 12:04 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The City of Columbus has officially elected a new mayor.

Former Councilman Skip Henderson is gearing up to take office after winning 56 percent of the vote.

Outgoing Mayor Teresa Tomlinson is reflecting on her tenure, what she's proud of, and the changes Columbus has seen during her two terms in office.

"It's been a real privilege, it really has been. I've gotten to know every square inch of this city and so many wonderful people," said Tomlinson.

For Columbus' 69th mayor and first woman winning with 68 percent of the vote, Tomlinson says the past eight years in office can only be described as an "adventure."

"You can never plan day to day for what may be the particular bounce of the ball. You have to come in ready for anything. Never a dull moment," said Tomlinson.

Priding herself on public appearances, Tomlinson said she believes she's helped bridge the gap between public officials and people within the community.

Her decisions and straightforward approach has opened the door to a fair share of criticism; criticism Tomlinson says she does not take personally.

"There's always going to be a group of folks nipping at the heels of the city leadership. That's the nature of holding public office. So, I would say don't be mistaken to think that's a personal thing. It's very much about in every community a group of folks who are always going to be critical about how leadership is being executed," said Tomlinson.

During her two terms, she has been credited with reforming the city's operational budget, one of her proudest achievements.

Besides budget reform, she's also credited with biking trails throughout the city and revitalization of Uptown.

But she is also leaving the office with unfinished business and a lingering shadow regarding crime in the area.

"I have to say my time in office has been very much marked with a robust discussion about crime. It is amazing the progress we have made, but still a lot to do. Also, one of the things we set out to do is revitalize blighted areas in our community, and we have made great strides in that as well, But beginning to go back and invest in those roads, bridges, amenities, invest in those areas, get the schools improved, even though we've made great strides, you can't turn around in eight years what took 30 years to come about," said Tomlinson.

While Tomlinson said she wishes she could see those key issues through, she's closing this chapter without any regrets. She's also keeping an open mind to her future plans.

"What's next for you?" asked News Leader 9's Sharifa Jackson.

"Wow! I don't know. I could go back to the practice of law. I've had some interesting opportunities there I haven't expected. I am going to pursue that. I have also had a lot of folks suggest I run for another higher office. That seems to be a trend. I'm going to assess how that will affect my family," said Tomlinson.

Through all the ups and downs, Tomlinson said she did what she needed to do and she did it the best way she knew how. Now, she's cherishing her final months in the mayoral seat----acknowledging the good times and bad times—as all a part of her never-ending journey.

"Do it your authentic way. Be the leader you are. I could not be Jim Wetherington. I could not be Bob Poydasheff. But, I was Teresa Tomlinson all day long," said Tomlinson.

Tomlinson has seven more months in her mayoral seat.

Skip Henderson will officially be sworn into office January 9, 2019.

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