HCWA Leaders Reflect on the Loss of Buddy Welch
Board Members, Managers, Employees and Vendors of the Henry County Water Authority (HCWA) are mourning the loss of long-time legal counsel and friend A.J. “Buddy” Welch, Jr., who was killed Friday morning March 23, 2018, when he was struck by a train at a railroad crossing in Butts County, where he owned property. He was 73.
Mr. Welch represented a number of municipal and county governments and related agencies and authorities in Henry and surrounding counties. His firm has served as legal counsel for the Water Authority for more than 40 years, with Mr. Welch serving as the attorney overseeing HCWA matters for approximately 37 years. He was still active in assisting with Water Authority policy and business – along with his son, State Rep. Andy Welch – up until his death.
HCWA General Manager Lindy Farmer, who is the longest tenured chief executive of a water utility in the state of Georgia, knew Buddy Welch professionally since his first days at the Authority, noting that the two began work there around the same time. Referring to Mr. Welch as both a lifelong colleague and close personal friend, Farmer reflected on the many stories the two shared together and the great loss Mr. Welch’s death is to the Authority and community.
“Buddy meant so much to so many people. He was Henry County. His entire career has been spent in public service, and we’ve had a lifetime of working together,” says Farmer. “He was very instrumental in the success we’ve had at the Authority, from seeing that we received permits for our reservoir construction, assisting us with local, state, and even federal issues regarding the operation and expansion of the system, providing day-to-day legal counsel and expertise on policies pursued by our Board, and so much more,” adds Farmer.
“Buddy was a unique individual who also was a personal friend,” says Farmer. “He has done so much for me personally, as I know he has for so many people in Henry County. From his role as legal counsel in our early days at the Authority, to his support and friendship up to the time of his death, he was always a trusted advisor and excellent professional. He assisted in the growth of our Water Authority just as he helped to build our community, and his presence in all things Henry County will be sorely missed,” concludes Farmer.
HCWA Chairman Jimmy Carter also knew Mr. Welch both professionally and personally, dating back to the days Carter served on the Henry County Board of Education, including 10 years as its Chairman. Mr. Welch served as legal counsel for the School Board for 42 years.
“The best way I can describe Buddy Welch, when I reflect on his life, is that he was the epitome of a Southern Gentleman, a man who stood for values and who personified exemplary service,” says Carter. “Buddy and I go way back, since his family has been in Henry County a long time, just like my family has, so we couldn’t help but get to know each other. Years ago, when I was on the Board of Education, I worked closely with Buddy since he was the Board’s attorney. And most recently, while serving on the Water Authority Board as Chairman, I’ve had the pleasure to work closely with him again on Water Authority matters,” adds Carter.
“When I joined the Water Authority Board, I quickly realized that this Authority had tremendous leadership, and Buddy was among that group. When you look at the history of the Water Authority, and the wonderful planning we’ve had, Buddy was right there in the middle of it. When you see how far we’ve come as an Authority, you realize Buddy was instrumental in that progress,” adds Carter. “It’s just a tremendous loss. When you lose someone like him, that sense of loss runs deep. He was very active in the life of Henry County, and he will be deeply missed.”
Fellow HCWA Board Member Warren Holder, whose public service includes a tenure on the Locust Grove City Council, the Henry County Board of Education, and the Henry County Board of Commissioners, also enjoyed working with Mr. Welch in those roles that preceded his current service on the Authority Board. He recalls a working relationship and friendship with Mr. Welch that was cultivated through all of those years of meetings, community events, and public policies the two pursued together.
“Buddy was probably one of the most multifaceted individuals I’ve ever known. He was that unique person who could do so many things at one time, yet be attentive to all he dealt with,” says Holder. “I remember one night when I was being roasted at a community function, Buddy was a part of that program. I said to those in attendance that when two or more people in Henry County gathered, Buddy’s name would likely come up. That’s because he was involved in so many things in our community and touched so many lives.”
“Buddy and I grew up together, reflected in our work side by side as far back as 1971, when I first joined the Locust Grove City Council, when he was the attorney for the city,” adds Holder. “He could get as close to people as anyone, and he had a charm about him and a commitment to doing the right thing. We’ve had a close relationship for many, many years. We’ve fought like brothers, we’ve cried together, and we’ve laughed together many times as well. He was a friend and a public servant who will be greatly missed.”
Mr. Welch’s funeral services were held at McDonough Presbyterian Church on Wednesday March 28, 2018. For those wishing to honor the life of Buddy Welch, donations in his memory can be made to the Buddy Welch Memorial Fund, McDonough Presbyterian Church, at www.mcdonoughpresbyterian.com.
Chris Wood, Ph.D.