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Wilcox Honored at Retirement Celebration

Wilcox Honored at Retirement Celebration
REFLECTING ON HIS CAREER – At the end of the celebration, Wilcox reflected on his career, and thanked many in attendance for their roles in his success.Photo by Makaylee Randolph
Wilcox Honored at Retirement Celebration
REFLECTING ON HIS CAREER – At the end of the celebration, Wilcox reflected on his career, and thanked many in attendance for their roles in his success.Photo by Makaylee Randolph

The Vidalia City School System honored retiring Superintendent Garrett Wilcox with an event celebrating his years in education on Thursday, May 30, at the Vidalia High School.

During the event, Vidalia City Schools Communications Director John Koon, Mayor and former Vidalia Board of Education Member Doug Roper, former Board Member Tim Truxel, Southeastern Early College and Career Academy (SECCA) Director and longtime Vidalia High School Principal John Sharpe, and new Superintendent Sandy Reid all reflected on their time working with Wilcox.

The speakers echoed similar memories of 5:45 a.m. phone calls from the superintendent, and told many humorous stories of their time working with him. They shared their excitement for the future, as Wilcox has been devoted to serving the community for several years.

One thing in which all speakers emphasized was Wilcox’s leadership skills, as they said that he was always willing to lend a hand when needed or go the extra mile to reach students. “He’d call me at 6 a.m. and say, ‘Hey, I want you to meet me over at J.R. Trippe [Middle School] – we got to cut the grass and weed eat it,’ or ‘Hey, we had a football game last night. Meet me at the field; we are going to clean up,’” Sharpe told the audience. “I didn’t mind because if my superintendent is going to do it, I will do it. He’s even called me to do that now that I’ve been at SECCA, but I still show up because when your leader is doing that stuff, you don’t mind doing it. When your leader sets the example, you are willing to do anything.”

The speakers were followed by administrators from the various schools within the district who presented Wilcox with gifts as a token of their appreciation for his service. After these presentations, Wilcox took to the microphone to reflect on his career.

He began by emphasizing his admiration with the consistency in employees and leadership in the area. “I have been so fortunate to be in this position for 12 years. How many people get to do that? Not many. And in that time, we have only had 10 board members – where else does that happen? If you think about it, we probably went six years or so with the same five folks,” Wilcox remarked. “There are long term employees and consistency in this community, not only in the school, but also in the city and the county. It goes on; it is really amazing.”

The retiring superintendent credited this consistency for the smooth running of the school board, as he stated, “I talk to folks all across the state and some of them do a great job, but they deal with problems that I have never dealt with – board members can’t get along; they can’t move forward with building projects because they are literally at a standstill.”

Wilcox reminisced on his own time working on building projects, as he stressed his gratitude for being able to witness the construction of the new Vidalia High School. “Obviously, having the opportunity to go do superintendent’s work in smaller school systems means you don’t often have the opportunity to go through a building project,” he explained. “This was a 4050 year decision – it was not an on-the-whim kind of thing. Where we’re sitting was a big Oxford industries sewing plant that employed 1,000 people. At the front of the building, there was an office; in the middle, there was a sewing area, and in the back was a warehouse. The building was just as big if not bigger than the one we are in now, and we sat and watched them knock it down.”

He told stories of Sharpe’s weekly tours of the construction, as he commented, “Just getting to be a part [of the project] – not the guiding the light behind it – was something so special to me.”

The importance of principals and assistant principals was also a topic discussed by Wilcox, as he explained he first came to Vidalia City Schools as a principal. “My favorite job I ever had was being principal at Vidalia High School. The pace of it suited me more than anything. The number of decisions that have to be made is different – I missed that pace after awhile,” he said. “I always thought that the principals and assistant principals were the most important people in the school system, myself included. I was more comfortable at least telling myself that I was one of them rather than being in the office. Sometimes, you had to make decisions and sometimes, you had to tell people things you didn’t like, but I found comfort being a part of a team – it felt more natural.”

Wilcox continued, “When you work with a lot of good folks, you don’t always have to have all the answers. To the people here from the school system, I am very grateful that you gave me the opportunity to sometimes look good when I didn’t deserve it. I’m not going to mention individual names – but to the central office staff, principals, and other support staff, thank you for the support that you’ve given me.”

In addition to thanking the school system’s staff, Wilcox also thanked the Toombs County Development Authority members and other local government officials who attended the event. “[The Development Authority is] a big part of what I’ve become and who I am, and they’re a big part of my life, so thank you guys for being here as well,” he told the group.

He thanked his fellow superintendents within the state for their support, sharing that he planned to keep the friendships he had created, and ultimately, thanked his family for their unwavering support. “You have to have some thick skin sometimes to play this role. A lot more needs to be said there, but until then, thank you,” he emphasized.

“I am fortunate just to be here. All of my kids but one (who is not yet graduated) were able to go from kindergarten through 12th grade at Vidalia City Schools; that does not happen everywhere. We haven’t had to move, and this place has quickly become home, not just the school system but the community as well. For that, I am very grateful. I am very grateful that everyone thought enough to come tonight,” Wilcox concluded.

As of June 1, the superintendent is officially retired, as new Superintendent Sandy Reid takes over the position. Wilcox shared his excitement for this new leader, as he stated he expects Reid to excel in the opportunity.

AN EVENING OF MEMORIES – Retiring Vidalia City Schools Superintendent Garrett Wilcox and his wife Blythe laugh as speakers share their memories of Wilcox’s time with the school system.Photo by Makaylee Randolph

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