Jerry Saul, Augusta’s tax commissioner from 1977 to 2008, died early Saturday. He was 80.
Friends and colleagues remembered Saul as a friendly and capable manager who modernized the tax office, starting with the “Tax-Mobile,” a school bus painted red, white and blue that carried tax and tag information and applications out into the community in the late 1970s.
“That told the taxpayers he was for them, and he was a servant of the taxpayers,” said Deputy Tax Commissioner of Finance Jack McAdams, whom Saul hired shortly after taking office.
Saul, then employed in the city appraiser’s office, won election against a tax office employee to succeed several generations of the Bohler family who had previously held the post, McAdams said.
An Augusta native and 1952 University of Georgia graduate in accounting, Saul returned home to join his father in business at Star Luggage Shops, and later owned and operated Frisco Fashions and The Army Navy Store on Broad Street.
Winning the tax commissioner post in 1976, Saul was never opposed for re-election “because he did make changes, and he did keep campaign promises,” McAdams said.
Saul made paying taxes easier by opening a south Augusta office and instituting payment by mail for car tags and a discount for taxpayers who pay in full within 20 days.
After eight terms in office, when Saul declined to seek another because of health reasons in 2008, he endorsed longtime friend and former recreation director and Augusta Commissioner Tommy Boyles to succeed him.
Before consolidation, county departments helped one another out and the recreation department was routinely assisting the tax commissioner with deliveries because it had the manpower and equipment, Boyles said.
Boyles said he was surprised when Saul approached him about running for tax commissioner.
“You always had the opinion that Jerry Saul was kind of like Old Man River. He was just going to keep rolling along,” Boyles said.
Saul is survived by his wife, Susie; daughter, Lisa; sons David and Bruce, a professor at Augusta State University; and a brother, attorney Louis Saul.
Graveside funeral services will be held 10 a.m. Monday at Westover Memorial Park.
McAdams and Boyles characterized Saul as a good manager who trusted his employees and helped them develop.
He also was a likeable, skillful politician who kept an “ear to the ground,” McAdams said.
Boyles lost the election to current Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick, who had known Saul through Augusta Blueprint, Kendrick’s father’s business.
Tax officials outside Augusta thought well of Saul.
Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen said Saul mentored her before she sought office in 1984 and afterward.
“He was very, very encouraging, and he said the hardest part was getting elected,” Allen said.
Saul succeeded in part because he brought in capable and likable people such as Dallas Boone, Roger Tomlin and North Williamson, Allen said.
“He surrounded himself with as good and talented people as he was able,” she said.