What Drives Ann Purcell?
Interview Date: Fall 2014
Ann Purcell has seen many roles, titles and honors. The wife, mother and grandmother is a businesswoman, genealogist, horse enthusiast, and assistant dog trainer (specializing in black labs). She was a teacher, served in the Georgia House of Representatives and is in her second year on the State Transportation Board.
Purcell represents Congressional District 1 in southeast Georgia, including the ports of Savannah and Brunswick and the entire coastline. She currently serves on the board of the World Trade Center in Savannah and formerly served on the State Board of Technical and Adult Education. She recently received a prestigious award from the President of the Federal Republic of Germany for her efforts to build cultural and economic bridges between Germany and the state of Georgia.
People tend to call me “Ms. Purcell” or “Ms. Ann.” But I am Ann – no different from anyone else. If I get to the point that I think that I am, someone ought to take me aside and say “you better get your focus back.”
Early years Purcell is a native Georgian - raised in Glennville and lives in Rincon.
We say R-I-N-K-E-N. I grew up in a Christian oriented family. We went to church on Sunday morning and evening. Frequently on Sunday afternoon, 30 or 40 family members would go to the river and talk and picnic – no fishing or swimming. I was an only child until I was a senior in high school. That’s when my parents adopted my sister, Nan; we are very close.
My mother was my best friend – I could talk with her and share my thoughts. She would give me suggestions, but then let me find my own way.
My father was a politician in Tattnall County. When my daddy said, “Do you want to go with me?” I always said, “Yes, sir.” Through him I saw that transportation is a key to economic development. He was instrumental in getting Highway 144 open to the public - it had been closed because of Camp Stewart (now Fort Stewart) blocking direct access. I saw what opening that highway did - dirt roads began to be paved and better routes developed across southeastern Georgia. Often, jobs were created.
Finding roots Purcell was 14 when she discovered genealogy.
Often while visiting family, I wrote notes and took pictures with my brownie camera. In 1976 she self-published her first book – Purcells of South Georgia and Other Related Families. She encourages others to dig into their ancestry and record it as well.
Young adult Ann, a Georgia Southern graduate, married Dent, a medical student, 48 years ago. They had three children and moved around for Dent’s education and residency.
But we were too far from home. Our goal was to work our way back to our parents and our families. We are outdoors people. We bought a farm in the country and made Effingham County our home. We were gentlemen farmers – we raised labs, and hay for our horses and cattle. I was a good stable janitor.
Setting goals After following her dad’s local political campaigns, her own sights were on the state legislature. Her 17+ year tenure in the Georgia House included chairing the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. She served on numerous committees – some years more than any other legislator.
I set goals and I go after them. I believe that there’s no failure - there’s only the degree of accomplishment. You may not reach a goal completely. The main thing is to stay focused and not give up.
On board After retiring from the Georgia House, a position for her district opened on the State Transportation Board.
I still wanted to serve. I thought there are more things I can do – other callings – and transportation is close to my heart…
It’s rewarding to see legislation I worked on in the Georgia House coming to fruition - like the deepening of the Port of Savannah. This Board knows that roads connect across county and district lines. We don’t always agree, but we work together to make a successful result for Georgia.
The Commissioner, department leadership, and the staff in D5 continuously educate me. I’m always asking them why we do this, why this way, and why is that better than what I’m thinking? I rely on them and appreciate their input. All are working for a better transportation system for Georgia.
Life’s joys I love what I do. Family and friends are so important. My husband is a super fellow. We have three wonderful children and eight marvelous grandchildren. One of my favorite things is to take our grandchildren on excursions. We pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with a Coke and visit a park or historic site. They listen, take notes and pictures, and write a summary of what they see in their own books. It’s a fun way to share my love of history with them.
I was, always, determined that I wanted to help others – to make a little bit of difference. And by helping others, I help myself. When I’m gone, I just want it to be said that I helped someone.