Back to His Roots
Bill T. Akers Leads Bulloch County Farm Bureau
When Bulloch County native Bill T. Akers was 32-years-old in 1992, he was elected as the youngest member of the Bulloch County Farm Bureau board of directors. He grew up on Donaldson Street in Statesboro and spent many hours of his childhood from 1965 – 1975, with his father at the family store – Statesboro Farm Supply. In 1960, Bill Sr., bought a farm in Clito and as soon as Bill T. was old enough, he shadowed his father every day to work and to the farm. Bill T.’s grandfather Thompson owned Bulloch Tractor Company on West Main Street.
He grew up surrounded by farming, but chose a career in state government and has been with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) since 1990. Last year when long-time Bulloch Farm Bureau president Lannie Lee passed away, Bill T. was elected as Lee’s successor. Accepting the volunteer position was a natural thing for Akers, a move that he says brought him “back to his roots.”
Never far from those “roots,” Bill T. graduated from Bulloch Academy in 1978.
“I liked tractors, farming and electronics,” he stated.
He started out working for Dell’s TV as a service technician. He spent several years in sales until 1989 when he got a job as a tower operator with the Georgia Forestry Commission. When the funds for his position were cut by then governor Zell Miller the following year, Akers applied for a job as a crime lab van driver with the GBI, a position held until 1995, when he became a technician in the GBI Coastal Regional Crime Lab in Savannah.
“After losing my forestry job, I went to the state patrol to talk to some friends there about getting a job,” said Akers. He was told there was a “body fetching” job and through that he met Charles Sikes, former Special Agent in Charge for Region 5. “He has been a dear friend and mentor,” Akers said.
In July of 1992, Bill T. married Lisa Deal, also a Bulloch County native, and they bought a 36-acre farm of their own in the Middleground community.
“Our Middleground neighbors J.W. and Joanna Jones brought Lisa and I into the Middleground community,” said Akers. “He was like a second grandfather to me and was a Farm Bureau board member. He invited me to serve on the board as a younger person; at the time the youngest. I served many years with Mr. J. W., I remember driving him to the state convention on Jekyll.”
Driving for older Farm Bureau board members is something Bill T. has been doing for years. When Lannie Lee was president, from age 86 to 96, Bill T. served as vice president and accompanied Lee to many state and national conventions. Akers drove Lee to state meetings, but visited Hawaii, Disney World, San Diego and San Antonio with Lee attending American Farm Bureau conventions.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better friend and mentor,” said Akers. “Mr. Lannie taught me many things. He always wanted to visit other counties to see what they were doing so we could gather ideas to make Bulloch better. He was proud of Bulloch County’s reputation as a place with many master farmers. Mr. Lannie would always say, ‘That’s God’s country!’ when talking about home. I hope I can fill his shoes.”
Akers new responsibilities will include maintenance and upkeep of the Farm Bureau offices on Northside Drive.
“We want to provide the best offices for folks to sell insurance,” he said. “User friendly space.”
Akers will also oversee many programs throughout the year to highlight the role of agriculture in the County and help bring about greater community awareness and education for area children.
“Jane Cason, Jamie Cromley and Haley Brannen organize a day trip for 50 – 60 kids from the Boys & Girls Club and Camp Cherokee to a Bulloch County farm to learn about cattle, chickens, row crops and produce. They are then treated to pizza,” said Akers.
“We like to think outside the box in developing programs,” said Akers. “We have a beef program each year and Ellis Meats sponsors the event and cooks hamburgers. The Hugh Marsh family and Dairy Queen sponsor our dairy program. Bobby Colson allows us to tour his Bee Museum. We would like to develop a program for each month.”
Bulloch County Farm Bureau also works closely with the Georgia Southern Botanic Garden actively participating in assisting with the Children’s Garden.
There are over 200 members of Bulloch County Farm Bureau and a board is elected every two years, with officers elected every year. The organization is all volunteer.
Like many farmers, Akers is up each day at 3:00 a.m. to start work. He arrives at his Farm Bureau office and works until 4:45 a.m., when he is on the road to his GBI job in Savannah. Many evenings are spent at programs with Farm Bureau and Akers other interests, including the Peace Officers Association of Georgia, whose annual convention he helps organize each year, and the 10 – 12 Farm Bureau meetings that he attends annually around the state. Akers is also a member of the Bulloch County Historical Society.
The Farm Bureau board of directors assists Akers in developing programming and in heading committees such as the Young Farmers and Women’s Leadership committees. Brooklet farmer David Cromley serves as vice president. Cromley and wife Jamie previously served as chairs of the Young Farmer Committee for Georgia Farm Bureau, a position which holds a seat on the state board. Jane and Bobby Joe Cason also serve as board members and Jane is head of the Women’s Leadership committee. Board member Ryan Brannen of Register heads the Young Farmers for Bulloch County. Charles Finch serves as secretary/treasurer. Other active board members include Freddie Blitch, Elliot Marsh and David Rushing.
The critical thinking training Akers received in the GBI has been helpful in his role at Farm Bureau. “To serve so many interests, I have to be highly organized,” said Akers. It’s fitting that he carries around files that he may need in three-ring binders in a milk crate. “I like to give it all I got,” he said. “I have to do my very best in order to meet the many deadlines.”
Akers continues to be involved in his own farm and in the farm his father bought in Clito many years ago, which he now shares with sisters Esther and Lillian. He manages 175 acres which are leased to row crops, but continues to do soil samples and keeps up with conservation efforts on the farms. Akers is eligible for retirement from the GBI in five years and hopes to stay with Farm Bureau long after he retires. But it’s not something Akers sees himself doing for 30 or 40 years.
“I started last year as president at 56. Mr. Lannie was 96 when he passed,” said Akers. “My goal is to do the best I can do, then to pass it on. I had a great foundation in serving Farm Bureau, and I hope I can provide that for our young farmers.”