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Mathis looks forward
to focusing on family


By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

  B.J. Mathis said last week, with a slight smile and not a hint of bitterness, that she is finished with government work.

  “I’m done,” she said simply, two days after the end of her tenure as Stockbridge’s economic development director.

B.J. Mathis recently ended her tenure as Stockbridge Economic Development Director.
                                                Special photo

  To further clarify her intentions, she was asked if she was considering a possible return to the Henry County Board of Commissioners, where she served as District II commissioner from 2005-2008 and countywide chairman from 2009-2012. She now lives in District III, and incumbent Gary Barham’s seat will be up for election this year.

  “None,” she said emphatically. “There is no interest there. I haven’t had a conversation about it. I haven’t even thought about it.”

  After being defeated by Tommy Smith in the 2012 Republican primary for commission chairman, Mathis was hired last February by former Stockbridge city manager David Milliron to a brand-new position and was charged with bolstering the city’s economic development efforts. It was a move that generated some controversy – not for her actual qualifications and job performance, but solely because of the timing of the hire after her election defeat.

  New mayor Tim Thompson acknowledged in a November interview that all of the comments he heard on the campaign trail regarding Mathis were in reference to her political history, not anything directly related to her job.

  There was some speculation that the new administration would fire her shortly after taking office, but that did not happen. Her job was actually eliminated by the Mark Alarcon administration when it approved the 2014 budget at the Dec. 30 council meeting.

  Mathis thinks this is the best possible outcome for all concerned.

  “It gives the incoming mayor and council the opportunity to determine what their structure is going to be, and to put their people in place once they decide what they need or don’t need,” she said. “It is really a gift to them; it is going to allow them to rise or fall based on the decisions that they make, and they are not stuck with someone from the previous budget cycle.”

  She added that she was never contacted by Thompson or any of the 2014 council about staying or leaving.

  “As of Dec. 31, my position was no longer funded,” she repeated. “I am perfectly fine with that.”

  The past 11 months in Stockbridge were busy ones. Her first big project was the Community Broadband initiative, now underway, which will bring fiber-optic high-speed Internet to the city. It is a $15 million investment by the company at zero cost to taxpayers, she said.

  Her office re-established the Downtown Development Auth-ority which had been defunct for some time. The city applied for a Community Development Block Grant and got $100,000 to finish the South Berry Street project, installing sidewalks and streetlights.

  A “camera-ready” ordinance was established so the city could promote economic development through the film industry. Stockbridge also was accepted into the Main Street program under Mathis’s watch and applied for a technical assistance grant with the Atlanta Regional Commission to write its new sign ordinance.

  The World Internet Group relocated its headquarters to the city as a result of the broadband project, bringing high-tech jobs along with it, Mathis said.

  The Stockbridge Business Association was launched in 2013 and will be installing officers this month.

  Academy Theatre moved into its new facility, part of the former Hamilton State Bank complex, and is operating there under a three-year contract with the city.

  “I think it’s been a good year,” Mathis said succinctly.

  Right now the only government work in which she is involved is the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA), to which she was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal for a five-year term that ends in the summer of 2017. She enjoys that, she said, and looks forward to finishing her term.

  But that’s it.

  “I’m done with government,” she said. “I did my civic duty to the best of my ability for the citizens of Henry County, but I’m ready to get my life back.”

  While she can’t imagine herself not working at all, she will not be working full-time and whatever she does will be “fun,” she said.

  She and her husband, a retired Atlanta Police Department lieutenant, have three grown children and three grandchildren. Her family is her focus now, along with her church and volunteer work, as well as continuing her own college education.

  All of those things took a back seat the past nine years. This past Thanksgiving was the first holiday in more than eight years during which she could turn off her cell phone and not be accessible to others outside her family.

  “It was nice,” she said. “I’m going to do a lot more of that.”



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