If a blue-collar upbringing by a brick mason and teacher didn’t build toughness in current District 2 County Commissioner Tommy French, Jr., four years at The Citadel did.
French was one of 82 minorities enrolled in the military academy of more than 2,000.
“At that time, hazing was still allowed. You know who got most of that,” he said.
Overall, the academy helped French develop communication skills under strenuous instructors.
French was active athletically and academically coming up in Baldwin County Schools.
Student government and 4-H posts complimented the football field recognition.
After the military experience, French returned home in 1989, taking a Sergeant of Support Services post with the Georgia Department of Corrections.
“You dealt with pretty much the day to day business of an institution,” he said.
French also did prison tactical squad, which was an elite designation.
Eleven years or so later, French took another job at Central State Hospital, where he is currently employed.
The commissioner lost his parents and sister to terminal illnesses in between those jobs.
“That’s a tough time. You have to take the punches,” he said. “Years ago when I was in school, I wanted to quit college because my mom was trying to take care of my family. It seems like I came late because I had a purpose to take care of them.”
French is married to wife Alicia and has three kids ages 13 to 21.
He’s logged numerous volunteer hours as a coach of football and basketball teams at the Baldwin County Recreation Department.
The mentorship role is important to French.
“A lot of kids didn’t have that strong parental influence or a role model to go to, so I made myself available to those kids,” he said.
The Baldwin County native successfully attained the District 2 County Commission seat in the 2012 election.