December 22, 2013

Henderson made a mark on Cohutta

The Daily Citizen

— Forty five years of town council meetings. Forty five years of volunteer fire department calls. Forty five years of listening to citizen concerns and trying to help them with problems.

Don Henderson has done all that and more since becoming Cohutta’s first, and through the end of the month its only, mayor in 1968. But after more than 40 years at the helm of the town’s government, Henderson is stepping down Dec. 31.

Henderson says his age — he just turned 80 — was a factor. He often puts in up to 20 hours a week on town business in addition to running a farm, and he says it’s time for him to turn the reins over to someone else.

But Henderson can look back at his time in office with pride. He was one of a group of men from the local Ruritan Club who convinced the General Assembly to grant Cohutta a charter. The town had one back in the 1800s but lost it.

And after the town gained its charter, Henderson stepped up to run for mayor.

Starting with nothing more than a volunteer fire department that was founded in the 1950s, Cohutta slowly but surely added a host of services and amenities under Henderson’s leadership: street lights, police, recreation facilities, a community center, garbage collection, ball fields and a walking track, zoning and a volunteer emergency medical service.

And they did it all without ever collecting any property tax. The council finances its budget from franchise fees on cable and utility companies, its share of the county local option sales tax, its share of the state insurance tax and court fines and fees.

Henderson has made an impact on his community that few men can boast of, but he remains modest about his accomplishments, giving credit to his fellow council members, volunteers and residents of Cohutta who have worked to build the city.

But Cohutta residents owe him a large debt, and we are sure they wish him the best in a well-deserved retirement from city government.