This story originally appeared in the April 2016 edition of Georgia's Cities.
Mayor Stripling’s swearing in ceremony in January 2016.
When Vienna Mayor Hobby Stripling took the oath of office in January this year, it was exactly 48 years to the day since he’d first sworn to uphold the laws and serve the residents of Vienna. He served 20 years after being sworn in in 1968, but returned to office this year after retiring and returning to the place he’d called home for more than 50 years.
“I love Vienna very much,” said Stripling, who also served as president of GMA in 1980. “I had a large number of residents who asked me to run. At first I said ‘no’ but they kept encouraging me.”
There have been some changes to city government since Stripling last served as mayor of Vienna, most notably the size of the budget and the number of city employees. “The basic services are the same, but I guess the budget is the biggest difference,” he said.
Mayor Stripling's swearing in as GMA President in 1980.
While it took a number of people to encourage him to return to office, it was “such a simple thing” that first got Stripling interested in running for mayor in the 1960s. His late wife was a native of Vienna, and when Stripling and his brother-in-law opened a grocery store in Vienna, the couple moved back to the city. During the Christmas season, his wife noted that the city’s Christmas lights were the same ones from when she was a child.
As chairman of a fledgling group of downtown merchants trying to bring new life to the area, Stripling suggested the group offer to pay half the cost for new Christmas lights, with the city covering the remaining half. The merchants agreed, and Stripling arranged a meeting with the mayor.
“He told me, ‘We have Christmas lights, we don’t need new ones,’” Stripling said. Stripling pointed out that the merchants were willing to help pay for new lights, but the mayor was not interested. “He said, ‘We have Christmas decorations, and if you don’t like it, you should run for mayor.’ I looked him in the eye and said, ‘Mr. Mayor, you’re going to have opposition this year.’
“One thing I learned,” added Stripling. “I would not ever challenge anyone to run against me if I was in office.”
After serving 20 years, Stripling went on to become campaign manager for Andrew Young and also worked for Congressman Sanford Bishop and Congressman Jim Marshall. He also served as Executive Director of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Georgia.