Like Elvis, Wes Tallon may have left the building, but the impact he's made on Douglas County will not be forgotten.

Tallon, who served as Douglas County's director of communications and community relations, officially retired Friday after 24 years of service to Douglas County. During that time, he has worked under three different commission chairmans.

Anyone who knew him -- even casually -- would say that the copper-haired man in his usualy attire of khaki pants -- made a lasting imprint on the county and its citizens with the many quality of life enhancements made by this unique, multi-talented man with almost a quarter century of public service.

Tallon, along with his two rescue "puppy dogs," Beau, a 7-year-old Boxer and Barney, a 6-year-old Basset Hound -- will be remembered by the generations of people they've met over the years.

He touched a lot of lives while part of the Douglas County community.

Every child who ever sang at the courthouse; every less fortunate child who went on a shopping spree for Christmas gifts at the Lithia Springs Wal-mart; or all of the third graders who listened to a story read by Tallon won't forget him and his beloved puppy dogs.

That kind of thing makes a positive imprint on a child.

As the county's Public Information Officer, he worked right alongside emergency management and first responders, making sure the citizens of Douglas County were kept well-informed, whether of impended threats of severe weather or of a community event.

After all, the county's online newsletter reflects this with the slogan, "There is always something happening in Douglas County."

His online newsletter Douglas County Happenings came into its own in 2009, when the county was devastated by a 500-year flood, and the county needed an outlet to provide information to its citizens.

Tallon didn't start out his life in Douglas County, but he quickly embraced the community as home.

He was born in Atlanta, but grew up in Chattanooga after his family moved. He graduated from Tennessee Tech. with a degree in civil engineering. Tallon worked his way through college playing the piano and he modestly admits to singing back up for many famous country singers, including the legendary Minnie Pearl.

"She was our stage mom," he said. "But we called her Mrs. Cannon, her real name," Tallon said.

Tallon has such a long list of accomplishments, it would be impossible to list them all. But the most recent, September Saturdays, just completed with 15th year as Douglas County's largest festival.

"September Saturdays started in 2002 as a way for the community to come together," he said. "That is reflected in the theme, 'It's All About Community.' We learned from 9/11 that we could come together as a community."

Today's September Saturdays bears little resemblance to that of the first year. At first, it was held on four consecutive Saturdays with a concert and a "royalty free movie."

"People came and tailgated and watched the movie," Tallon said. "Depending on the movie, there was a group of people who would always dress within the movie's theme. They would dress in cowboy costume for 'McClintock' and an overcoat and hat for Cary Grant's 'Charade' and in pajamas for the Doris Day's movie, 'Pillow Talk.'"

Over the years, September Saturdays has raised over $100,000 for Communities in Schools.

"This is something of which I am very proud," said Tallon. "Afterschool programs are so important for kids to get extra help. If we can offer the extra education and mentoring in a safe place until mom or dad can pick them up, that is what we're supposed to be doing."

During that same year, on September 11, 2002, Tallon planted the Liberty Tree on the courthouse front lawn, and held a program out front. In 2003, a luminary was placed on the steps, parking lot and around the courthouse with the name of each victim of 9/11.

"I came in as director of engineering," he said. "I was brought here because of two major things the county wanted me to handle, for my storm water expertise and grant experience. I had been working with engineering firms to obtain grant funds for cities, counties and development authorities."

Over the next four years, Tallon was successful in obtaining a significant amount of grant funding for the county. Then, he was asked to take over the building of the courthouse.

The county moved into the new courthouse in 1998 with great fanfare, all of the high school bands and veteran's groups marching in the parade.

"The county was booming like crazy," Tallon said. "Subdivision plats were coming in."

There was no county director of communications yet. But in the new courthouse, there was a small TV station with six VCRs and Tallon was told to run it.

"A guy with a civil engineer degree tried to learn how to run a TV station," Tallon said. "Holy Cow, what am I going to do with a TV station?"

One of the first things he'd do was to televise the first concert in the courthouse. This was in December 1998. During the first concert,, Tallon was still the county's director of engineering, the job he was originally hired to do in June 1993.

"I borrowed sound equipment and video cameras from the extension service," he recalled. "I ran cable across the door and hooked up to a camera. I brought a piano from home.

"The kids loved singing, and here is me with one little camera and broadcast the concerts live," he said. "I love that I've been able to highlight the talents of our kids and promote the arts."

In those days, Tallon set up a little camera, made possible by a donation. He stationed the camera on a tripod and then ran upstairs to the control room to broadcast the concert. Sometimes he coaxed a couple of his engineering staff to help run the whole operation.

They began broadcasting the board of commissioners meetings live, then learned he could hook up a computer into the system and built a PowerPoint program. Remember, this was in the late 1990s.

"The first was six slides and they ran and ran and ran" Tallon laughed. "We had three minutes of content. We had a bank of VCRs, so I bought a complete series o civics, American history, American literature -- whatever I could buy and get TV rights to them. I also bought a set of music with rights."

Douglas County was actually one of the first in the state to operate a government access channel. He said at the time, only Cobb,Athens-Clarke and Hall Counties had one.

"We have by far more local programming than anyone in the state, of which we are very proud," Tallon said. "Our website is called 'Celebrate Douglas County' and we run only positive programs on our channel, DCTV 23. All 140,000 (Douglas County citizens) belong to me and I've done -- I hope -- something positive for them in the 24 years I've been here."

The Courthouse Art Gallery on the third floor was also established by Tallon in 2005, which gives school children and local artists a chance to share their talents.

"We had to do the gallery lighting and hangers in phases as money became available," he said. "The kids had no other place to display their art except at school."

Tallon holds a special place in his heart for children, which comes from his own childhood riddled with abuse. He is very sensitive to when he hears a child harshly criticized or demeaned by a parent following a performance at the courthouse.

"That is not going to happen on my watch," he said.

From that concern came "Wes's Rules for the Audience" in which they are required to exhibit positive feedback to their children and not to curb their enthusiasm of performances.

"I remind the audience beforehand that there will be thunderous applause at every appropriate time at the concert," he said. "Before the performance, I tell every one of the kids how proud I am of them. I want for them to have self-confidence and be proud."

"I've loved every moment to work with those kids. If they've ever had or are having a rough life, and if they need someone on their side, I'm in," Tallon said.

During Tallon's tenure, his experience in engineering, grants and economic development proved very useful to the fast growing county. He said that he worked closely with Robert Reynolds and was on the team to bring in Google, the American Cross and other industries to the community.

Tallon plans to move to Montgomery, Alabama to enjoy his retirement with his partner, Gordon.

"Gordon and I want to spend the rest of our lives together," he said. "We are very active in our church, so once my house sells and I move to Montgomery, we will be taking over a cooking ministry and doing marketing and social media."

In addition to doing a lot of volunteer work at his church, Tallon said he hopes to do some traveling.

"The first thing on our travel list is in February, where we'll be going to New York City for the Westminster Dog Show," he said. "This is the last year that (Douglasville resident) Julie Hudson is going to show 'Angus,' a Clumber Spaniel."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.