Local businesspeople, politicians and leaders of every stripe packed the Brunswick Country Club on Wednesday to congratulate longtime Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce president Milton “Woody” Woodside on his retirement.
Woodside, who has held the role of chamber president since 1985, officially retired this month, leaving the position to Ralph Staffins III.
Jeff Bennett, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, emceed Woodside’s retirement bash. He opened up by thanking Woodside for his 34 years with the chamber.
“I’d like to take this time to remind you that this is not a farewell — or a funeral, as Woody likes to refer to it — but it is a time to honor the service he has given us over the past 34 years,” Bennett said.
Following up, former U.S. congressman Lindsay Thomas gave Woodside his due.
“I know none of you have ever called Woody and had him put you on speaker phone with someone. I never could figure out, when he would do that, if he was trying to impress someone in the office because he had me on the phone or impress me with the fact he had someone else on the phone,” Thomas said. “I finally decided what he was trying to do was get rid of both of us.”
A few stories about his experiences with Woodside came to mind, and Thomas garnered more than a few rounds of applause and laughter.
“He is a perfect example of the saying ‘You don’t kid who you don’t like,’” Thomas said.
Jack Kingston, former congressman succeeding Thomas, next took the podium.
“Woody, I’m very happy to be here at one your many retirement tours. It’s going to be like Bill and Hillary, he’s going to start selling tickets and traveling around the states,” Kingston said.
Kingston told the crowd some stories about Woodside from his days as a campaign aide and his relocation from Washington, D.C. to South Georgia. He closed with a gift and thanks.
“We all love you, and we appreciate everything you have done,” Kingston said.
Former Brunswick city commissioner Ken Tollison followed and said he could speak for hours about Woodside.
“I was asked to speak three to five minutes and I can do Woody for three to five hours. He is so easy,” Tollison said. “We’ve been through a lot. I’ve known Woody almost 50 years, and one of my favorite topics is giving Woody hell every chance I get. We’ve seen the good, bad, the ugly. We’ve seen it all. We never killed anybody, never took drugs. I don’t think we robbed any banks, but just about everything else is on the table.”
He told a few more war stories before handing the mic off.
“Woody’s done a lot, I don’t need to tell you what he’s done. I can tell you about the old Brunswick yacht club,” Tollison said. “There’s the birth of the (Sidney) Lanier Bridge, believe it or not. We all sat around and planned that thing, and Woody made it happen. FLETC. Between (former U.S. rep.) Bo Ginn and Woody, they made that happen, and I could go on and on. But for 34 years, Woody had been Glynn County’s best friend, and don’t anybody ever doubt that. He’s been a friend, brother, and we all love you, buddy.”
Randal Morris, the current spokesman for Georgia Pacific and former member of the chamber board, took the final stand at the podium.
“I’ve got stories about Woody that I can tell you that would keep you in stitches until this time next week, and you wouldn’t have to move,” Morris said. “But I’m not going to do that tonight. I might tell a few before I’m over.
“What I really want to do is to let everybody know why we love Woody Woodside for what he’s done in this community. Not just the last 34 years, but for the 13 years prior to that as a congressional staffer. You think of that. A transplant from North Carolina coming down to Glynn County, he’s spent almost 50 years here. There’s a lot to say about him.”
He went on to tell the audience about Woodside’s essential role as a “dot-connector.”
“I would describe Woody as an architect of community. Not an architect of communities, but an architect of community,” Morris said. “I would call him a dot-connector of people with resources. And I would call him ultimately the ambassador of Brunswick and Glynn County because he has been all of that for the last 40-something years in more ways we’ll ever know.”
For his part, Woodside said he hasn’t thought much about retirement.
“I really haven’t thought about the issue of retiring because I’ve been really engaged and involved in a lot of things, and it wouldn’t be hard to remain engaged and remain involved. I intend to do that in the community in some way,” Woodside said.
Heading out, Woodside said he’s confident the chamber is in good hand with current leadership and Staffins.
“I guess I’m venturing into a new life. I do think it’s great, the opportunity that I’ve had for so many years, and I’m excited for this chamber and this leadership, and also I’m excited for the new leadership they’re bringing in,” Woodside said. “The young man is quite talented. He’s got new energy and certainly new ideas, and I think that is wonderful.”