Georgia state Sen. Jack Hill has died

State Sen. Jack Hill, who for years has shepherded Georgia's budget through the Senate, has died. He was 75.

Tattnall County Sheriff Kyle Sapp said Hill, a Reidsville Republican, died Monday evening at his office.

“He was at his office working and the staff hadn’t communicated with him in a while, so someone went to check on him and found him there at his desk,” Sapp said.

Hill’s death is not believed to be related to the coronavirus pandemic, Sapp said.

"I'm heartbroken," Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan said. "Whatever he was for the state, and what he did for the budget — he was a mentor to me. At the end of the day these are people that we know, people what we like (and) people that we work with. And it hurts."

Former Gov. Nathan Deal said Hill was an example of public leadership.

“His dedication for many decades made him one of the most notable people who ever served in the Georgia State Senate,” Deal said. “He was a personal friend whose knowledge and leadership were valuable to me as Governor.”

Hill was sworn into the Georgia Senate in 1991 as a Democrat. A retired grocer, Hill switched parties after the 2002 election, helping throw the Senate to the Republicans. He was rewarded by being named chairman of the Senate budget committee.

Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, a Stone Mountain Democrat, was first elected the same year as Hill.

“Jack Hill was a compassionate and hardworking individual,” Henson said. “He was always the last to leave the Capitol each day because he cared so deeply about the people of our state.”

Gov. Brian Kemp called Hill a gentle giant.

"Jack Hill was one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I ever served with," Kemp said on Twitter. "His loss is devastating to our state, but he leaves behind an unmatched legacy of hard work and public service."

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said Hill was a man of overwhelming integrity.

“For three decades Georgians have benefited from his leadership and his calm and steady hand at the helm,” Duncan said in a statement. “Jack always ensured we were good stewards of taxpayer dollars, but it was more than that, he led with kindness and clarity.”

Staff reporters James Salzer and Greg Bluestein contributed to this report.