Former Dacula Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks was remembered for his devotion to Dacula and his impact on its residents as officials gathered at Dacula City Hall to dedicate an intersection in his memory Monday.
The intersection at Winder Highway and Harbins Road in Dacula will from now on be known as the Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks Intersection. It is intended to honor the legacy of the longtime Dacula mayor, who died earlier this year.
“When I think about this intersection, it really is in the heart of Dacula and Mayor Wilbanks was the heart of Dacula,” state Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, told attendees at the dedication ceremony. “He was the individual that we all think of that we knew was looking after the best interests of Dacula always.”
The intersection was named for Wilbanks through an act of legislation that Efstration, and state Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville, pushed through the Georgia General Assembly this spring at the behest of Dacula officials.
Wilbanks served two stints as mayor: the first in the 1970s and the second lasted from 2002 until his death.
The intersection is located about halfway between Dacula City Hall and Wilbanks’ home.
“We had thought about doing this in the past and it was just fitting after his passing,” Martin said. “He deserved it and we wanted to make sure we got it done.”
Dacula Mayor Trey King, who was picked to lead the city after Wilbanks died, said the city began looking at getting the intersection named in memory of Wilbanks shortly after he died in January.
The current mayor said his predecessor meant a lot to Dacula’s residents and several groups began asking for something to be done to honor him after his death.
“It was an idea that really everybody who was associated with Jimmy knew that needed to happen,” King said. “From that point forward, it was just a process of going through the state legislature and making all of the right contacts just (to have a symbol) to represent him and his service to the city.”
Wilbanks’ cousin, Robert Wilbanks, said the former mayor would have enjoyed having an intersection named in his honor. The cousin helped Dacula City Administrator Joey Murphy pull back the curtain to unveil the Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks Intersection sign at the end of the ceremony.
“He probably would have been overwhelmed and wouldn’t know what to say — but he’d think of something,” Robert Wilbanks said. “I know Jimmy; he could have come up with something to say.”
Officials from several of Dacula’s sister cities around Gwinnett County attended the ceremony, as did Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash; Commissioner Marlene Fosque; state Rep. Donna McLeod, D-Lawrenceville; and state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford.
Nash said she knew Wilbanks for years, and that his mother was her sixth-grade teacher. She recalled playing the piano years ago in the Hebron Baptist church choir, which was under Wilbanks’ direction at the time.
The county leader said Wilbanks touched the lives of many people during his lifetime.
“The fact that all of you are here today, I think, is a testament to the way that he touched the lives of individuals — and this is just a small sampling,” Nash said. “Y’all are representatives of thousands of people whose lives he touched over the time that he was in this community.”
Efstration, who named his newborn son Jimmy Wilbanks Efstration in honor of the former mayor, said the mayor set the tone for how the city, county and state governments should work together on behalf of the community.
“I’m proud to say that over the past seven years, we’ve really had an incredible opportunity to work together — the city, county and state governments work well together on behalf of the citizens of Gwinnett,” Efstration said. “I know that will continue into the future, but it’s really because of the amazing example that Mayor Wilbanks set for all of us in public service and service to the community.”
But Wilbanks was mainly remembered for his commitment to the city he called home for his entire life.
“Jimmy Wilbanks was about Dacula,” Martin said. “He worked tirelessly in this building to do the best job he could do to make sure that this community was a better place and he’s clearly left it in better hands and in a better place.”
Robert Wilbanks echoed that sentiment after the ceremony as he recalled his counsin’s devotion to the city.
“Dacula, to him, was what everything was all about,” he said.