Always Faithful, Always There

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard
Photo by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard Photo by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

Abney Retires After 42 Years with County

Chris Abney took the job with Stephens County District 1 in June of 1977, not necessarily because he had a passion for county work, but because it seemed ideal for him to continue with the family business: peanut farming.

“It was close to home, I got holidays off, and I’d be able to help with the peanut harvest,” he said in an interview at his retirement party last week.

Little did he know that his career with District 1 would span 42 years and six different County Commissioners.

“It’s been a good run,” he said. “You get in a groove and it’s a good job. But when the groove starts to be a rut, it’s time to go.”

Abney’s “good run,” he said, is a result of being raised in the area. “I’m an Outlaw, born and bred. I got a good education and grew up in a good place.”

Abney said he has enjoyed taking care of the place where he grew up and has loved. “Stephens County’s been real good to me,” he said.

One of Abney’s favorite memories was the year there was a snow storm that dropped 15 inches of snow in one day. He said it was so cold while the crew was trying to clear the roads, the fuel in the graders would freeze up.

“It was satisfying to get the roads cleared so people could get to town for their groceries,” he said. “It took several days to get it done, but we got lots of thank-yous and pats on the back.

“I was quite a bit younger then, but even now, you know, the bridges wash out and the guys make sure we still have a county.”

Abney said that the biggest change in the County in the past 42 years is the pay. “When I started, my income was $400 a month, and now it’s $3300 a month. People can afford to stay in the job.”

Abney had planned on retiring June 1 of this year but COVID-19 presented a change of plan. District 1 Commissioner Kreg Murphree said that due to health issues, Abney was at risk. “He’d already turned his resignation in for June, but we started to go with split crews and he was concerned.

I talked to the other Commissioners, and I said to him, “Welcome to early retirement.”

What will Abney do with all this time on his hands? He’s not sure. “Maybe I’ll find a hobby,” he joked. He said he’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife Kathy, his son, and his two granddaughters.

Murphree, however, misses that the first thing Abney did when he got to work at 5am was make the coffee. “I could rely on him to do it, and now half the time I’ve got to,” Murphree said with a smile.

“He was always faithful, always there,” said Murphree. “You don’t last through six commissioners and 42 years and not do your job.”