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12-29-08 Oconee County Road Department will experience watershed events with January 09 retirements of Wayne Ridgeway and Junior Watson

Wayne Ridgeway & Junior Watson - Both of these men have played important parts in the history of Oconee County and its Road System. Together they have a combined 87 years of service to Oconee County!

AVOC

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December 28, 2008

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Oconee County Road Department will experience watershed events with January 09 retirements

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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Wayne Ridgeway 12-12-1994

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Eddie Watson (Junior) Dec 1992

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Many memories came flooding back when I heard of the planned January 09 retirements of Wayne Ridgeway (37 Years), retiring as Road Superintendent and of Eddie (Junior) Watson (50 years), retiring as Senior Equipment Operator.    Both of these men have played important parts in the history of the Oconee County Road System.    They were an important part of my experiences as Commission Chair for 12 years.  Together they have a combined 87 years of service to Oconee County.

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Much of Wayne and Junior’s contributions are not well known to the general public.   They are well known to folks who have had drainage problems and road problems.   They have seen the county’s dirt road mileage decrease from 100 miles to less than 25 or so now.   Junior saw a lot of rural roads paved in the late 50’s and 60’s, having started working for the county on November 14, 1958.   Wayne Ridgeway came to work for the Road Department in January 1, 1972.   Both are retiring as of January 9, 2009, with Ridgeway having 37 years of service and Watson with 50 years and two months.

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With the coming of SPLOST funds in the 80’s and 90’s, both of these men helped grade and prepare many roads for paving.   Some of the former dirt roads:  Aycock Road, Flat Rock Loop, Gear-Luke Road, Ashford Road, Cliff Dawson Road, and many, many more.

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Gear-Luke Road Bogart, GA 1993-4


WAYNE RIDGEWAY:

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Wayne came to work for the County in 1972.   He worked at the old Prison Camp, later Road Department, on GA Hwy 53, site of the present Post Office in Watkinsville and Jail.

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Wayne worked for years as an equipment operator.  He was skilled and flexible.  Wayne has limited formal education.  However, he had the unique ability to talk to an irate citizen about a ditch or drainage problem.   Wayne knew how to divert water to ditches and drainage pipes and off yards and roads.    During my 12 years as Chairman, he was a valuable county employee.   I had a lot of confidence in him.

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I remember the day after Ray Middlebrooks, Road Superintendent,died in October 1992.   Ray and I worked together for 4 years before his death.   He loved Oconee County.  We spent many hours together and discussing road matters.   He usually placed Wayne Ridgeway in charge in his absence.  

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H. Ray Middlebrooks, Road Supt, Ca 1991, Died October 1992

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The morning after Ray died; I requested Wayne to come to my office and told him, “You are now the Road Superintendent”.   Wayne, as usual, was modest and self effacing.   He brought up his limited education.   I told him we had engineers and consultants and I would help him with budget and administrative matters.

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Wayne Ridgeway was worth a lot to Oconee County because of his knowledge of roads, drainage issues, grading experience and the ability to “work the men” and to work with citizens.  

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To me, Wayne Ridgeway made more contributions to Oconee County in the last 30 years than have many others who got much more media attention.   Wayne is a Good Man!


JUNIOR WATSON:

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Junior was working for Oconee County while I was in college.   I had heard his name many times over the years.   He lost a leg, below the knee, in the 1960’s in a job related accident.   After that he wore a prostheses that the county would replace from time to time.   It never seemed to limit his ability to operate heavy equipment.

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In the early years, Junior did a lot of equipment repairs.   He was the mechanic for the road department.   On weekends, he would scrape roads requested by citizens who sometimes gave him a tip or a baked cake.

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Some officials did not like Junior and his influence.   In my term as a commissioner from 1972-1976, I remember some commissioners talking about “getting rid" of Junior Watson.    Since then, a number of those officials are gone, some to death, and Junior has kept “trucking”.

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Ray Middlebrooks and I rode the roads on weekends and inspected projects and discussed road issues.    Ray would describe Junior as slow sometimes and sometimes a little cantankerous.   However “he is the best grading finish man in Georgia!   I can't get by without him".

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Junior Watson helped grade a lot of roads in recent years for paving.   He has contributed a lot to this county with his service.  

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I congratulate Junior on his retirement and on outlasting most of his critics.   His long service is proof enough that he was a good operator and employee.   We will miss him.


Wayne Ridgeway was Spotlighted by the County on its Website in October 2003.

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Oconee County Website

http://www.oconeecounty.net/

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September 12, 2003

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SPOTLIGHT ON WAYNE RIDGEWAY

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Wayne Ridgeway 9-12-03

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Wayne Ridgeway has served Oconee County for 31 years. He has been Superintendent of Roads & Bridges since 1992. Oconee County born and raised, Wayne now makes his home in Statham. His hobbies are dirt track racing, tinkering with cars, and working in his yard. Always friendly and good natured, Wayne "enjoys helping the citizens with problems" and "gets a lot of satisfaction from seeing the roads and right­-of-ways kept clean." If he could improve one thing in Oconee County, he would stop people from stealing road signs because this problem costs the county up to $ 10,000 a year.


Junior Watson was recognized for 40 years of service to Oconee County in the 1998 Watkinsville Christmas Parade

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Eddie Watson -1998 Watkinsville Christmas Parade

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Eddie Watson & New Motorgrader – Dec 1992


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