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City Park Dedicated to Ronnie Dixon

Vidalia citizens joined family and friends of late Mayor Ronnie Dixon on May 19 in a celebration of life ceremony that ended with the renaming of the stage at the city park in Dixon’s honor.

Dixon passed away on April 1, 2020, at age 77, after serving on the City Council for 16 years and as mayor for 28 years. According to Dixon’s brother, Toombs County Commissioner Wendell Dixon, the park was one of the last projects on which the mayor worked.

“He loved this park,” Commissioner Dixon remarked. “This was one of the last things they did before he died, they put the continued from page

fencing up around the park. They had already voted on it, and after he passed away, they put the fence up, and it looks great. They did a great job, and I think we are going to continue to see a lot of great events out here. I’m looking forward to it.”

He added, “When Ronnie passed away, we were unable to have a church funeral or visitation, or anything like that because of COVID. I think this event really makes up for all of that. Every time I ride by here, I will think of him. I just love seeing his name up there.”

The memorial ceremony featured reflections by ESG Operations, Inc., Cofounder Clay Sikes and Hofstadler and Associates, Inc., President Carl Hofstadler, subcontractors for the City who worked with Mayor Dixon.

“It is a great honor that I am able to be here, and to be able to speak at Ronnie Dixon’s celebration of life,” Hofstadler said. “One of Ronnie’s greatest attributes, of which there were many, was his ability to lead. He knew when to be kind and gentle, but he also knew when to come down like a ton of bricks. I saw both ends of that spectrum, and it was extremely effective.”

He continued, “The City of Vidalia, under Ronnie’s leadership, grew to take its place as one of the best-run cities in the state of Georgia. His pride in Vidalia shown through wherever he went. I must say the City of Vidalia lost a true champion in Ronnie Dixon.”

He said, “Ronnie Dixon was a friend of mine for over 30 years. Yes, I worked in consulting, but it was a great deal more than that, I assure you. We shared problems with each other, we shared good times, we shared bad times, we shared victories, and we shared some bitter, bitter defeats. But, all those years, he remained loyal to me and to the City of Vidalia — not one time did he ever waver. Friends like Ronnie are hard to come by, I miss him, and I always will — I will always be Mayor Ronnie Dixon’s friend and his biggest fan,” he concluded.

The ceremony concluded with Mayor Doug Roper, alongside Councilman John Raymond Turner and City Manager Nick Overstreet unveiling the rebranding of the park.

“I think it is important that you know why the City of Vidalia has settled on where we are today,” Roper told the crowd. “I think if you look at the fact that Mayor Dixon served as Mayor for 26 years, and as a Councilman for 16, you see his heart was the city of Vidalia. If you look at where we are located now, you will agree we are in the heart of our community and close to the heart of our downtown. So the marriage of those two things, for us, was perfect as a representation of Mayor Dixon’s life, his heart, the way he was an ambassador for us, the way that he fought for us, the way that he led for us — this was a perfect fit for us.”

He continued, “It brings me a great deal of pleasure to dedicate this park on his behalf. I think he would be proud of the progress we continue to make — and folks, we have big plans: we are going bigger and higher, and it is a must that we remember those whose shoulders we’ve stood on, and that would be Ronnie Dixon and his leadership. So up until this point, this park has been known as ‘The Stage at City Park,” but it gives me a lot of pleasure to have the privilege and honor to tell you that moving forward, this will be the Ronnie A. Dixon City Park.”

“We just want to thank Mayor Roper, the City Manager, and all members of the City Council for doing this,” Councilman Dixon commented. “This has been in the works for a while since Ronnie died, and we are just very grateful for the support the community has given.”

Ronnie Dixon was a football star when he attended Vidalia High School and was named to the Class B All-State Team in 1959. He earned a football scholarship to Florida State University, but after a year as a Seminole, he transferred to the University of Georgia where he played football, participated in field and track and basketball. It also began his longtime admiration for the Bulldogs. He graduated from UGA with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree.

During his college years, he joined the National Guard during the Cuban Crisis and stayed in that service for about six months.

Over his years in public service, Mayor Dixon received numerous recognitions, including being inducted into the Georgia Municipal Association’s (GMA) Hall of Fame. Through GMA he served on the Board of Trustees, Board of Directors, GMA Resolution Committee, GMA Awards Committee, and as President of District 9.

Under his guidance, the Vidalia Regional Airport underwent an extensive renovation, and the Vidalia Sweet Onion Museum, The Vidalia Visitors’ Center and the Vidalia Community Center were constructed and upgraded.

Dixon’s influence was felt throughout the State of Georgia. He led the community in a progressive manner that has allowed Vidalia to become an economic hub for the area. Mayor Dixon was an active member of the Vidalia Rotary Club and was a Paul Harris Fellow. He had served with other civic organizations and was a member of the Vidalia First United Methodist Church.

Ronnie A. Dixon

GOOD OLE DAYS – Late Vidalia Mayor Ronnie Dixon accomplished much in his life, including participating in the filming of the 1973 movie, ‘The Longest Yard,’ at the Reidsville State Prison. At that time, Dixon owned a Buick car dealership in Vidalia, and loaned movie star Burt Reynolds a new Buick Riviera to drive while filming the movie. Dixon (far right) stands with Reynolds (center) and Dixon’s brother, Wendell Dixon, who was cast in the film as a football player.

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