In 1959, when Jim Wetherington began patrolling the streets of Columbus on a Harley-Davidson, neither the J.R. Allen Parkway nor Interstate 185 even existed.
Soon, the cloverleaf interchange connecting the two major arteries will be named in honor of the former mayor and police chief, state Sen. Josh McKoon said Monday.
The honor was proposed by the local legislative delegation to recognize the man who began his local career as a motorcycle cop in 1959, eventually rising to become police chief, then becoming a member of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, then commissioner of the state Corrections Department under Gov. Roy Barnes. After being dismissed by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, Wetherington came back to Columbus and ran successfully for mayor in 2006, defeating former Mayor Bob Poydasheff.
“It was a surprise that they would name that interchange after me. It’s quite an honor,” said Wetherington, who had no idea the honor was coming his way. “I’ve touched base with most of the delegation to thank them, and they all had nice things to say about my contributions to the city and to the state with the different positions I’ve held.”
McKoon said the signage designating the interchange in honor of Wetherington will cost about $5,000 and will be raised through private donations. No taxpayer funds will be used, he said.
“A lot of supporters of the mayor were involved,” McKoon said. “He called me yesterday to say how much it meant to him.”
Wetherington’s successor, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, called the tribute, “a well deserved recognition and honor.”
“Jim Wetherington has served this community honorably for decades,” Tomlinson said. “This will be a wonderful tribute to that service and it will cause us to remember on a regular basis all that he’s done for the city of Columbus.”
The resolution, one of many included in Senate Resolution 843, said in part:
“His significant organizational and leadership talents, his remarkable patience and diplomacy, his keen sense of vision, and his sensitivity to the needs of the citizens of this state earned him the respect and admiration of his colleagues and associates.”