Tears were flowing Monday during a retirement party for the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce's top two officials.
Longtime president Linda Williams and husband Marty Williams, the organization's vice president of travel and tourism, announced in May they would step down together.
The couple's last day was Monday, which they spent visiting with friends from the local business community who stopped by the office to wish them well.
"It means everything to me to see so many people and hear them give their different perspectives and memories they have about me, the chamber and our relationships," Linda Williams said. "It's rewarding to hear it.
"There have been some things they've said to me that I didn't realize they remembered or thought about our relationships."
Hired in 1996 as the chamber's information specialist, she was selected as president in 1999, when Dawson County was poised for tremendous growth.
Marty Williams has held his position since 2006.
Jay Walker, who for nearly a decade worked closely with the chamber as manager at Dawsonville Kroger, drove from Gwinnett County to attend the retirement party.
"The word I think of when I think about them is integrity," he said. "I think that sums it all up about them."
Kara Zajac said it was Linda Williams' positive outlook on life that helped develop their friendship.
"I hope this is not the end of our relationship," Zajac said. "I'm very proud of both of you and what you've done for this community."
Others called her a mentor and the driving force behind the chamber's success.
"Linda was always such an encouragement to me, even when I thought I couldn't do something. You saw things in me before I figured out they were in me," said Stephanie Mathis, former chairwoman of the chamber's board of directors.
"Marty was the same way - always wanting to make things better."
Jennifer Baker, current chamber chair, said the words of hope, encouragement and thanks were testament to the impact the couple has had on the community.
"We love and care about you guys, and we're going to miss you," she said. "I think I can speak for all of us in the room that it's been a great experience. Thanks for everything you do."
The board of directors has been planning for the leadership transition for the past few months.
Baker said the search is under way to find a replacement to fill a new combined position.
"We've had some local interest and some interest from outside the county, both from nearby counties and farther away," she said. "We have a real focus on experience, but we also have to find someone whose personality is going to fit and who can hit the ground running."