The City of White’s annual Friendliest Mile Festival had an added layer of significance over the weekend, with Saturday’s festivities also serving as a celebration of the life and times of Tina Nanette Wilhite.
Wilhite, a member of the White City Council since 2018, died on Aug. 10 at the age of 55.
“I think Tina had an endearing love for her city, and she wanted to see it to be the best it could be,” said White Mayor Kim Dupree Billue. “Tina was a joy to be around, she was one of the sweetest persons I ever knew and she loved everybody, and just wanted the best for everybody — she never had a bad word to say about anybody.”
White City Clerk Robin Deal said she was close friends with Wilhite since 2014, having previously worked alongside her at North Georgia Mercantile. Deal also said she was the person who prompted Wilhite to run for the council seat in the first place.
“I told her she could do it, I told her she had the gumption,” Deal recounted. “She loved her town, and that would be a good way for her to get things done that she thought was important to her town.”
Although Wilhite was somewhat meek at first, Deal said it wasn’t long before she started demonstrating great confidence in her new role as an elected official.
“One night we were getting ready for a council meeting,” Deal recollected. “We were discussing something and she said ‘Well, that’s just not right and I’m not going to vote for it’ and everybody just looked at her like ‘Oh my goodness, where did that come from?’"
Billue also recalled visiting Athens alongside Wilhite for elected officials’ training — she couldn’t help but smile as she recounted forcing her to take a photograph with the iconic Georgia Bulldog.
“I think anybody here that knew Tina loved her,” Billue said. “Because she was such a good person, and she genuinely cared for people.”
Deal discussed what she believes Wilhite’s lasting legacy will be in the local community.
“Everybody remembers her as our city councilwoman, but also, she has a lovely daughter who is here today as one of our vendors,” Deal said. “I think her daughter will help carry that legacy on, by participating in things here in White.”
Wilhite’s daughter, 34-year-old Meggian Wilhite-Chitwood of Cartersville, reflected on memories of her mother.
“She was a single mother most of my life, so she was pretty much the main person in my life,” she said. “She was a really good mom.”
Considering her mother’s shy disposition, she said she was surprised when she announced her plans to run for a seat on the White City Council.
“She had good customer service skills, but she really wouldn’t go out of her way to talk to people she didn’t know," she said. “She was definitely stepping out of her comfort zone, and to learn that she went door to door knocking and got more votes than the mayor, from what I hear, when they actually voted is very surprising.”
She noted that her mother also worked at Movies, Games, Etc. — a video rental service in White — for quite some time.
“People had seen her face, and she’s always been really sweet,” she said. “That’s what everybody tells me, 'She was so sweet.' And she was.”
She said her mother forged the basis of her faith and taught her how to be a strong, independent woman.
At her booth, she displayed a photograph of herself with her mother. “Because someone we love is in heaven, there is a little bit of heaven in our home,” the frame read.
She recounted the greatest lesson her mother taught her.
“It’s going to seem cliche, but I guess to always pray and trust God,” she said. “And she’s right.”