The section of Highway 280 that runs in front of longtime public servant Blondean Newman’s home was named in her honor Tuesday.
Newman, 90, was Bryan County’s tax commissioner from 1966 until 1995, when she retired from public life for the first time. She was appointed to the county commission later to fill out the term of a commissioner who died, and was elected to two additional terms.
Newman said Tuesday she served honestly and had a simple philosophy when it came to serving the public.
“I tried to treat everybody alike,” she said. “I told the girls (at the tax office) to remember the ones standing at the counter pay your salary. It doesn’t matter if they’ve got on a suit and tie or their overalls, treat them alike.”
The Blondean Newman Highway, named by an act of the Georgia General Assembly, runs west from Lanier where 280 intersects with Highway 204 to the Black Creek Bridge near I-16.
Newman, born in 1930, started life in Bashlor Bridge and Clyde on what is now Fort Stewart. She and her family were relocated to Ellabell before World War II, and Newman has lived nearly all her life in a home on 280 not far from the Black Creek Bridge.
The renaming is the result of a 2020 effort to salute Newman from Bryan County commissioners and longtime County Clerk Donna Waters. The measure got support in the form of House Resolution 1238 from state Rep. Jan Tankersley, R-Brooklet, and the resolution was signed off on by state representatives Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, and Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah.
The resolution reads, in part: “she is a person of magnanimous strengths with an unimpeachable reputation for integrity, intelligence, fairness and kindness,” and “Mrs. Newman served Bryan County with honor and distinction,” At Tuesday’s ceremony in front of the Bryan County Court House in Pembroke, former state representative Anne Purcell, now on the state transportation board, said Newman was one of the first people she met when she began stumping for votes as a candidate for the general assembly.
“I didn’t hardly know a single soul in this county, but I soon found out who Miss Blondean Newman was,” Purcell said. “She became a mentor to me. And now whenever I go by her house I wonder if she’s at home.”
Purcell said the renaming was “only the very best thing to do,” and naming that portion of 280 will help residents know the impact Newman made on the county.
Also at Tuesday’s ceremony, District 1 Commissioner Noah Covington put some perspective on the length of time Newman was in public office, first by noting while Newman has 40 years of service “on the books” in office, “we know you served a whole lot more time than that for this county.”
Covington said Newman began her first term as tax commissioner three years before he was born in 1969, and as he grew up he remembered hearing of Newman through his father, the late Fred Covington.
“I think there are some people you always remember,” Covington said. “I’ve always known your name, I’ve always known who you were, and I think that’s true for all Bryan Countians who grew up here. I just want to say thank you so much. It’s an honor to be here.”
Newman, who often ran unopposed, said she was thankful for the honor entrusted to her by voters. She also put in a word for good relations between the two ends of Bryan County.
“Both ends of the county always looked the same to me,” Newman said. “I never looked at it as having a north or a south. We’ve got a wonderful county, we need to keep it together. The north needs to support the south and the south needs to support the north.”