Cedartown Utilities Director Jim Wright has been close to the city's water operations for most of his life. Wright and his wife, Anne, who is chief lab analyst at the City Water Plant, will both retire at the end of this year. Wright has 27 years of service with the city and Anne has 21 years. But Wright had some knowledge of water operations even before he started working for the city. That's because his father, Jay Wright was Cedartown's waste water plant superintendent for 34 years. The Wrights lived above the waste water lab when Jim was only eight years old. Wright has been working with the City of Cedartown since 1973 when he was hired as a lab analyst. In the mid 1970s, he was promoted to superintendent of the waste water plant when his father retired and in 1982 was promoted to utilities director, the position he has held since. Mrs. Wright had helped Jim on a number of projects and knew enough about testing water that she was hired when an unexpected vacancy occurred at the City Water Plant in 1979. Shortly afterwards, she studied the technical aspects of the job and became a certified lab analyst just as her husband had done earlier. Wright explained that he has worked for five city managers starting with Robert Veal, then Bill Brooks, Carter Crawford, Kurt Falkenstein and currently David Johnson. Both the Wrights said they have enjoyed working for the city and both love Cedartown. But when the city was forced to build a new water treatment plant at the site of the Big Spring in the late 1980s, Wright said that was a very difficult time for him. "The people did not understand that Cedartown had no choice in the matter because of state and federal rules and regulations. We had to build the new facility because benzene had been found in the water," he explained. Although the amount of benzene was not considered dangerous, it was of concern enough to the state to require Cedartown to build a new water treatment plant. Benzene is a bi-product of petroleum and is a known carcinogen. The facility cost about $2 million and the city did not have the additional funds available so water rates had to be increased. "There was a lot of resentment because the public probably did not understand that Cedartown had no choice in the matter," he said. Mrs. Wright said that when she first started working at the water plant only chlorine had to be added to the water because it was so clear. Now the filter plant is a fully certified facility it not only makes sure that Cedartown's water is safe, it does the same on a contract basis for Cave Spring, the Polk County Water Authority and the Polk County Health Department. Cedartown's lab is able to do its own micro-biological testing of water, she explained. City Manager David Johnson said recently that most communities the size of Cedartown do not have a certified Water Treatment Plant.
In addition to building a treatment plant at the Big Spring, Cedartown has increased the size of its Waste Water Treatment Plant four times since Wright has been with the city. The plant has been increased from a capacity of 1.2 million gallons to 3.5 million gallons of waste water per day. "This was done to accommodate growth and also to comply with rules and regulations of the state," he said.
The Waste Water Plant has also been recognized for its efforts to keep the environment clean. Donna Atkins was recognized last year as the top operator in this region, Wright noted. The city's Waste Water Plant also does contract lab testing for Cave Spring and Aragon's plant, which is operated by the Polk County Water Authority. Wright's brother Jerry has also been in the water treatment service for other communities off and on for the past 30 years. The Wrights have three sons, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. They plan to spend much of their retirement enjoying them. Both have said there is a possibility they could work part-time for the city after retirement. Barry Atkinson of Acworth has been hired to replace Wright and Patricia Jenkins has been promoted to fill Mrs. Wright's position at the Water Plant. Atkinson has most recently worked with the Lockheed-Martin waste water program in Marietta. Johnson said it was unusual for one family to give so much service to a community like the Wrights have done. He praised them for the excellent service they have provided for the community. Many of Cedartown's citizens remember Wright when he was news director and chief engineer at WGAA Radio for 19 years before he started working for the city. Mrs. Wright had a number of jobs while their sons were young, but worked for Rome Plow for about five years. They were recognized with a reception last week at City Hall and presented gifts on behalf of the city.