Copeland hard at work after heart surgery

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 11, 2000

VIDALIA – By his own admission, Mayor Hyram Copeland is the type of person who has to stay active.

But Jim Saunders, an official with Vidalia Apparel, knew Copeland had it bad when he called a couple of days after Copeland’s May 30 triple bypass surgery to see how the mayor was doing.

&uot;Here he is in a hospital bed, and I&160;call and the first thing out of his mouth is ‘What can I&160;do for you?’,&uot; Saunders said during a visit to Town Hall Monday. &uot;I&160;said, ‘I’m calling to see how you’re doing.’ &uot;

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So perhaps it is no surprise that last Wednesday, a few days after he started working again part-time and just over five weeks after surgery, Copeland was back at Town Hall full time.

&uot;I wasn’t supposed to go back for eight weeks, but the walls started closing in on me,&uot;&160;Copeland said Monday, the first day he made visits to town departments since his bypass.

And he came back to a warm reception Wednesday.

&uot;It’s the first time I’ve seen you since your …,&uot; said a Utility Department employee, referring to the bypass. &uot;Just a bump in the road,&uot;&160;Copeland replied.

&uot;It’s so good to see you,&uot;&160;Edith Spurlock of the Vidalia Police Department said, giving Copeland a hug. &uot;You look so good.&uot;

Good, but busy. Before 9 a.m. Monday, Copeland had already visited with crews at the site of the planned Vidalia Landing development to look over work that has already been done to the riverwalk and other infrastructure.

And he visited the site again that afternoon.

&uot;Excuse me just a second – I&160;was supposed to get a street sweeper down here,&uot;&160;Copeland said, during the afternoon visit, grabbing a cell phone to get an employee to the site of a newly-paved road at the riverfront.

For Copeland – who for now is working seven or eight hours a day instead of the usual 10 or 12 – there is hardly an empty moment in the day.

If there’s no one in the office to see him, he heads out on his rounds around the town, checking on the riverfront site and other projects going on around town.

Once or twice a week, or more if needed, he visits the Fire, Police, Utility and other town departments to check up on improvement projects and ask and answer any questions.

On Wednesday, those rounds included questioning Utility Superintendent Guy Thompson about recent improvements to the water plant.

&uot;I haven’t seen this (work) since I&160;came back,&uot;&160;Copeland said. &uot;Looks like it’s going good.&uot;

With Fire Chief Jack Langston, he discussed purchasing a new fire truck later this year. With Police Chief Billy Hammers, he discussed progress on renovations of the department’s offices.

Copeland estimates he drives an average of 300 miles a week on the job – most of that in Vidalia and the surrounding area, although he also made two trips to meet with state lawmakers in Baton Rouge earlier this year.

And when he is not driving, he is usually attempting to resolve utility, infrastructure and other problems citizens bring to his attention, either by telephone or in person.

For Copeland, whose family has a history of heart problems, having a bypass has caused him to make some lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier foods and finding new ways to handle stress.

But when asked if the surgery will slow him down any, the mayor admitted that &uot;it probably won’t,&uot;&160;despite doctors’ orders to take it easy for a while.

He does not worry about getting caught, however. &uot;My doctor’s in Alexandria,&uot; he said with a laugh.