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City mourns Searles' passing

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

August 19, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A Dougherty County Commissioner collapsed and died at his home just before lunch today.

64-year-old Art Searles, publisher of the Southwest Georgian newspaper, apparently had a heart attack in his kitchen. He was pronounced dead at a hospital about an hour later.

Art Searles was a busy man. Often working late into the night to get his newspaper, the Southwest Georgian out on time.

"This paper and what it stood for was his life," said Co-Worker Alice Robinson.

 Robinson worked at the paper Searles' father founded. "I'm blessed to know that he cared about me and I really cared about him and I'm going to miss him."

And she's not alone. Friends, including school board member James Bush, flocked to the paper this afternoon after hearing the news of his death.

"He loves people. He's helped a lot of people and he's going to be missed in our community. In Dougherty County and Southwest Georgia," said Bush.

County Administrator Richard Crowdis was shocked when he heard the news of Searles' death. Searles attended yesterday's regular county commission meeting and seemed to be in good spirits. "To get a phone call that this happened, we're real saddened by it and in shock," Crowds said. "We're going to miss Art. Art was very professional and objective and he was very focused on his work and we're going to miss him."

Just yesterday, I interviewed Searles as he and his fellow commissioners toured the Bridge House. As was typical Art Searles style, he joked with us about doing the interview.

"I ain't running for anything now. I was chasing y'all down," he joked.

Albany City Commissioners and Mayor Willie Adams heard the news about their counterpart's death after a morning meeting. "We have lost a good community leader. We have lost a good human being. We're going to sorely miss Mr. Searles."

But perhaps no one will miss him as much as his family. Art Searles leaves behind a wife and three daughters.

Art Searles was elected to the Dougherty County Commission after his District Five predecessor, James Cross, died in office in 2000. The seat is again up for election in November.

The local Democrat party will appoint a replacement candidate to appear on the ballot.

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