Statesboro City Clerk Sue Starling and the mayor and council announced this week that she will retire Aug. 31 after 30 years employment at City Hall.
“It’s just time for me to go to the house, time to relax after 30 years,” Starling, who is 69, told the Statesboro Herald after Tuesday’s council meeting.
She said she didn’t want a big story. So she was approached again, a short while later, for a “little” story.
“I’m just ready to go be there with my grandkids and move on to another chapter,” said Starling, known as “Ms. Sue” to council members and mayors present and past. “I like to be behind the scenes, you know. I just do my job the best I can, and I will say the city has been good to me. I’ve raised my kids. When I came here to the city they were still young.”
Besides handling the agendas and minutes for City Council meetings and candidate qualifying for city elections, Statesboro’s city clerk oversees utility billing, taxes, business licenses, alcoholic beverage licensing and city records.
Starling is a member of the Georgia Municipal Clerks Association and is a certified municipal clerk, a professional designation she has maintained for 25 years.
Career and family
City Hall relocated during Starling’s 30-year career, from the old Post Office to the restored Jaeckel Hotel. First employed by the city in customer service and utility billing for 19 years, she was promoted to City Clerk 11 years ago during the administration of Mayor Bill Hatcher. She has since served with three more mayors.
Now, of course, her three children are all grownups – Kristy Starling, who is a teacher at Stilson Elementary School; Jeff Starling, who owns Starling Adventures, arranging hunting and fishing trips; and Sterling Starling, who is also a city of Statesboro employee, working in code compliance. Sue Starling has four grandchildren and three step-grandchildren.
Although she said she didn’t want a big deal made of her retirement, some council members insisted that they wanted to comment, and meanwhile City Manager Charles Penny issued a release quoting Mayor Jonathan McCollar.
“Sue Starling is a remarkable person and has been an asset to the City of Statesboro for 30 years,” McCollar said in the release. “She has been a stalwart from day one in my administration, and the many accomplishments we have made would not have been possible if it was not for Sue Starling. I hope she enjoys a well-deserved retirement, and may God bless her every step.”
District 4 Councilman John Riggs, the longest serving council member and current mayor pro tempore, said “she’s always been my city clerk,” noting that Starling was there when he was first sworn-in nine and half years ago.
“Part of her job is keeping the public informed about our meetings and making sure that we’re following the right procedures, and anyway, she’s fantastic at it,” Riggs said.
He wasn’t the only council member to mention Starling’s role in making arrangements for members’ attendance at Georgia Municipal Association, or GMA, training sessions and conventions, even booking their motel rooms for them.
“My mother died about 20 years ago, and (Starling) has been one of my main mother figures since I’ve been here,” Riggs said.
“Ms. Sue has been the unsung caretaker of the entire council. …,” said District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum. “She took care of us like we’re each one of her children, and I say that with greatest possible affection and admiration.”
He noted Starling’s personal attention to scheduling for GMA sessions, providing detailed meeting agendas and even making sure council members file campaign and financial disclosures.
Boyum, who had been a Statesboro Herald reporter and commentator before he ran for a council seat, said he always found Starling easy to talk to when he was reporting on the city.
“She just has been one of those people that really cared for the city, that never was looking for any personal glory or recognition and she just tried to do her job for the best of her ability,” Boyum said Wednesday. “If we had more people with that mindset, the city of Statesboro would be an even more amazing place than it already is. She will be missed, and we wish her well.”
After calling Starling “very efficient and effective,” District 2 Councilman Sam Lee Jones added, “I’ve known her of course since before I was elected, and she’s always been a people-oriented person, good for the city of Statesboro and its citizens, and she will be missed.”
District 3 Councilman Jeff Yawn, like Jones, is in the fourth year of a first term.
“She has just been a true joy to work with; she’s organized; she’s kind and considerate of us and kind and considerate of the community she’s served for 30 years now,” Yawn said. “Not only am I grateful to have worked with her, but I think the whole city of Statesboro should be grateful to have had such a committed employee.”
District 5 Councilman Derek Duke has served just over one year now after a special election.
“In the short amount of time, compared to her length of service, that I have been there, she has been just one of the rocks of stability at City Hall and certainly has kept all the council and mayor informed and compliant in a timely basis with those things that we have to keep up with,” Duke said. “So it’s just been a pleasure to work with her.”
The city clerk, like the city manager and the city attorney, works directly for the mayor and council, and is not hired by the city manager like other department heads. So finding a successor for Starling will be up to the mayor and council.
Some council members said they hope to hire one in September.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.