Jim Hinkle steps down at the end of this month as the mayor of Grayson. Hinkle is completing a second 12-year stint in the role, after serving another 12 years in the 1980s and early 1990s.
GRAYSON — In 1993, Jim Hinkle decided to step down after serving 12 years as mayor of Grayson.
But less than a decade later, he found a renewed calling in the city, returning to the role in 2001.
Now, another 12 years later, the 80-year-old is giving up the gavel again (although he will keep the one he uses as a Gwinnett Magistrate Court judge).
“It’s like night and day between the two times I was mayor,” Hinkle said during a recent interview.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, Grayson was a true small town. Development, he said, came when he built a new house, comparing it to the hundred-plus neighborhoods and major retail buildings that came during the 2000s.
In the early days, Hinkle and his wife Barbara organized the first Grayson Day, closing the street to allow for clogging and floats, and the tall politician was always called on to decorate the Christmas tree.
One of the city’s biggest problems happened when the gauge got stuck on the water tower. So every few months, Hinkle would climb the ladder and fix it.
When pigeons created a poop problem, the once-internationally ranked marksmen, who was invited to Olympic try-outs for 30 years, organized a hunting team.
But when “Gwinnett’s best kept secret” was discovered during the new millenium, Hinkle’s role became more intense.
As a lawyer, he wrote a stiff building code, putting restrictions on signs and architectural controls that made some developers balked.
“We were on the cusp, and we didn’t want to look like any other town,” Hinkle said. “We got rid of the (developments) we didn’t want. People came into town because they wanted to. … It worked like a charm. We didn’t lose anything but we gained a lot.”
While a new City Hall was built between Hinkle’s stints in the mayor’s office, he was instrumental in opening a popular city park.
“We’ve done so much, and I’m pleased with what we’ve done,” the former Marine said.
Alison Wilkerson took the oath of office as mayor earlier this month, following in the footsteps of her father Doug, who served in the role after Hinkle’s first dozen years in office.
“I will always be grateful for the time, energy and commitment (Hinkle) has given the city of Grayson,” said Wilkerson, who has known her predecessor most of her life and served with him as a council member the past 12 years. “As a strong leader, he has always encouraged me to think outside of the box and while he has never shied away from a battle, I appreciate that has always fought for what and who he believes is right. I will always be thankful for the lessons in politics and life that I have learned from Jim.”