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Mayor Jaynes set to retire

After he retires from office on August 31, Washington County Mayor George Jaynes plans to be even busier than he has been while serving as the county’s top elected official.
“I’ll go to the farm for a while. I’ve got a couple of houses I want to remodel, maybe build a fence or two,” said Jaynes, who has spent 24 years in the mayoral role, and more than 30 years in county government. “I can’t sit down. I never have been able to. I’ll get into something else.”
Jaynes began his career in government in 1972, when he became a Justice of the Peace and was paid a whopping $4 per meeting — a total of $16 for his first year on the job.
“I still have a copy of my first paycheck,” he said from his office on Friday.
However, it’s not the money that has kept Jaynes at this 24-hour-a-day job for more than two decades. It’s the people, he said.
“The people of Washington County have been so good to me,” Jaynes said, adding that he’ll miss the people and his office staff most when he steps down. “They’ve been with me for years.”
But right now, Jaynes is still in the thick of things, working on a county budget in a time when money is short and no one wants to raise taxes.
He said he won’t “meddle” in county government after he retires, but he will be around to help in any way he possibly can, and County Mayor-elect Dan Eldridge knows he can call Jaynes.
“I wish Eldridge the best,” Jaynes said.
One of the hardest aspects of being the mayor ­— or a commissioner for that matter — Jaynes said, is the pressure involved in it.
“Lots of people don’t realize the pressure you face when elected,” he said. “Any way you go, you could make your best friend mad. I just tell them vote like you feel you should, but you may make 50 percent of your supporters mad at you, and 100 percent mad if you don’t vote at all.”
Though Jaynes has faced a tough budget year, he said it’s not the toughest he’s ever faced.
The first year he served as mayor, the county had just $200,000 in its fund balance, as compared to the several million now in the account. He and the commissioners faced several major building needs as well, he said, and were forced to raise taxes.
The next year, Washington County taxpayers saw their property tax rate jump by 61 cents.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” Jaynes said. “It takes money to operate.”
While he said he has never advocated for a property tax increase, he has supported every tax increase implemented in his tenure because he’s got inside information: “I know there’s no other way we can do it.”
Taxes have helped to pay for some of his proudest accomplishments, though, which include the two new county schools, as well as additions to several schools and the remodelings of Daniel Boone and David Crockett high schools.
He’s also proud of road work in the region, including Boones Creek Road.
“I really pushed for that,” he said.
And last but not least, the George P. Jaynes Justice Center, which commissioners voted unanimously to name after him late last year. The center, which opened in November, combines all the county courts, and is what Jaynes calls one of his proudest moves.