Flags at Escambia County facilities are being flown at half-staff in memory of interim County Administrator George Touart, who died this morning after a long battle with cancer.
Touart passed away early this Friday morning at his home, with his family by his side. He was 65 years old.
"We have lost probably one of the most compassionate, caring, committed individuals in Escambia County, Escambia County government," says Commissioner Gene Valentino. Commissioner Wilson Robertson added that he valued his short time collaborating with Touart. "I feel that George was under appreciated and is gonna be greatly missed," he says.
Touart was a businessman, who also spent many years in a number of leadership roles in local government, including Pascagoula City Councilman, Public Information Officer for the Mississippi State Highway Department, and County Administrator of Madison County, Mississippi. Commissioner Valentino recalls when he became the Escambia County Administrator in 2002. "A few weeks on the job, four commissioners are indicted and under the direction of the governor he had to bring them all up to speed and be able to run government. He was affectionately referred to as 'King George;' he had everything under control." That’s referring to Touart’s management style during his time on the job until 2007. Commissioner Grover Robinson acknowledges that his style wasn’t universally admired. "There’s no doubt he’ll be viewed as controversial, but there’s no doubt we wouldn’t be where we are today without his leadership," says Robinson. In particular, Touart shined as he led response efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004. But, Commissioner Valentino says he’s most impressed with what Touart had accomplished since his return on an interim basis in December of 2012. In the past year or so, Touart was credited with overseeing the transition of the Escambia County Jail and West Florida Public Library System, as well as last year's passage of the county gas tax to fund public transportation. Touart had recently withdrawn his name from consideration for the county administrator job on a permanent basis and had submitted his letter of resignation, effective Feb.3rd. He had been out on sick leave since December 26th because of complications from his long battle with cancer. His survivors include his parents, Clyde and Mary Touart, wife Barbara, and four children.