MOULTRIE -- Even after he gave up the office of mayor of Ellenton two years ago, it was hard for those who knew Earl Hart not to refer to him by that title.

Indeed, he spent a good number of his 80 years in that capacity, and the results of that tenure are still felt in the small city.

After his death Tuesday, friends and those who worked with Hart, who was elected to his first term in 1982, remembered his efforts on behalf of Ellenton.

"I think he's done a lot for this town," said former City Council member Mytrice Bunn, who pointed to streets and water as some of Hart's accomplishments. "I know there are a lot of things he's got done around town."

Hart also was passionate about the city's recreation complex, volunteer fire department and rural health center that began operation while he was still in office. Earlier this year the city received a $500,000 grant to build a health center that will serve migrants as well as residents in Colquitt and surrounding counties.

Hart resigned abruptly in August 1999, citing his health and disagreements with council over his wishes to hire a police officer and give the city's part-time water employee a raise. At the time, a council member said that Hart also disagreed over council's plans to apply for a grant for equipment for the fire department.

"I think he epitomized the small-town mayor," Colquitt County Administrator Marion Hay said. "He loved Ellenton and always had it foremost in his mind. Even after he retired as mayor he still kept Ellenton in mind. The people in Ellenton will miss him."

Hay said he and Hart maintained a cordial working relationship from the time Hay came to work here.

"I thought a lot of him," Hay said. "There's not a mayor in the world that loves his city more than he did."

Hart's nephew and former city employee Wilmer Hopson said Hart's work was not for personal accomplishment.

"Everything he put in this city, he put in for the people of this city," Hopson said. "He's done good. Earl was a good man and always has been. All of us liked him."

-- By Alan Mauldin

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