Jackson County Opinions...

January 3, 2001

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
January 3, 2001

News Stories Predicted For The New Year
The new year, and with it a new millennium, arrived rather quietly, mostly because few people were willing to admit that all of the hype a year earlier was actually in error. What bodes for us in the new year?
My record as a prognosticator is unequaled, so I offer the following news-related predictions for 2001.
·Commerce will experience a boom in housing. Unfortunately, it will come at the same time as an economic downturn caused by President Clinton leaving office.
·The Nicholson town council will finally have an official meeting. It may occur purely by accident, but sooner or later somebody will forget to not come to a meeting and there will be a quorum.
·The people of Nicholson will discover they like it better when the town council doesn't meet.
·The new county government will experience turmoil when it decides to make the new courthouse a metal building.
·Prior to the 2001 high school football season, Coach Steve Savage will tell the Commerce Kiwanis Club "We'll be lucky to win five games," after which the Tigers will win seven to 10 games.
·Republicans and Democrats in Congress will not get along.
·King Roy Barnes will begin work on a state takeover of water resources, starting with a GRTA-like group to manage the resources of the Metro Atlanta area.
·Georgians outside Metro Atlanta will start hoarding water in leftover milk jugs.
·President George Bush will come under intense criticism ­ from Republicans, who will call him a liberal. Florida voters will hang chads in effigy.
·Former President Bill Clinton will see his popularity, which is already high, get even higher after he leaves office. Those who will miss him most are the conservative talk show hosts, who made their livings damning him.
·The results of the U.S. Census will be loudly criticized as missing the mark in Jackson County, and local officials will demand a recount. Republicans will file suit to stop the recount.
·The Commerce News will be overlooked in both the Pulitzer Prize and Heisman Trophy competitions.
·The fourth and fifth dentists will come around and recommend Trident Sugarless Gum to their patients who chew gum.
·The Bear Creek Reservoir project will be completed, but the EPD won't allow the reservoir to be filled until the state catches up its rainfall deficit.
·The contractor for the renovation of Commerce High School will announce that it will be completed by mid-October.
·Rep. Jeannette Jamieson will propose legislation to enable Banks Crossing to annex Commerce.
·Global warming will move the coastline of Georgia in to Baxley.
·The Bush administration will deny the existence of global warming. "It's just a little ice melting," the president will say.
·Rep. Pat Bell will introduce legislation changing Jackson County's government from a five-member board of commissioners to a three-member board.
It's going to be an interesting year.

The Jackson Herald
January 3, 2001

Goals for 2001
During the first week of each year, it has become a tradition for us to publish a list of our top goals for Jackson County for the new year. So as we enter 2001, we'd again like to share our New Year's goals for Jackson County:
1. The start of construction for a larger county courthouse and administrative complex. We had hoped this project would have begun last year, but it was put on hold. The new board of commissioners will no doubt have their own ideas about the project, but we hope they can reach a consensus during the coming year.
2. The further development of sidewalks in the City of Jefferson. There's a huge need in Jefferson for pedestrian areas, especially sidewalks. In this era of "smart growth," we believe one of the smartest things local governments can do is provide a safe way for citizens to walk around town.
3. The development of advanced telecommunications infrastructure in Jackson County. It's time for our local telecommunications firms to invest in the future of Jackson County by offering cable modems and other high-speed links to the digital world. We've said it before, telecommunications will be the backbone of the 21st century - but Jackson County is still linked by digital dirt roads.
4. The smart expansion of the new county sewage system. Building this system correctly without fueling high density growth will be difficult, but we hope the proper balance will be found.
5. Additional work on the county's zoning codes to bring them up to date and to better plan for the county's growth.
6. A review of the county's fire protection services. Specifically, we would like to see a countywide fire department that would coordinate fire services, allocate resources and be fully accountable to the county manager and elected board of commissioners. The existing system of independent fire districts served a useful purpose, but we believe it's time for a more unified approach to fire protection.
7. A continuation of local efforts to focus on the problem of domestic violence and the related problems of substance abuse and suicide.
8. The planning for a nice, large community center in Jefferson designed to serve as a meeting place, community stage and for other community events. This shouldn't be a second-rate building, but rather one that reflects a sense of pride in the community.
9. A serious look at animal control problems in the county. To be effective, it will take cooperation between the county and city governments.
10. A real justification by the county's small towns for their continued existence. We believe several of the county's small towns don't meet the legal criteria to be a chartered city because they offer no real services to their citizens. Yet those same towns continue to collect sales taxes and other funds for which they have no real plans. It's time to end this sham. Either provide services, or shutter city hall.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
January 3, 2001

Waddell the last of elected 'bosses'
Jerry Waddell is one of the most enigmatic public officials I've ever covered. From the moment he took office on March 17, 1993, as chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, until his term ended at midnight Sunday, he was at the center of an unrelenting hurricane. Conflict and controversy seemed to gravitate toward Waddell the way lint grabs to a dark suit.
As the issues mounted, so too did opinions about Waddell. His admirers could find no fault, his detractors could find no good. To say that he polarized public opinion would be an understatement.
But in spite of all the discord, I suspect history will be kinder to Jerry Waddell's tenure than his contemporaries have been. Long after all the petty bickering and infighting is forgotten, the vast growth that happened during Waddell's watch will be seen as a turning point for Jackson County.
How much of that growth was the result of Waddell's work is debatable, of course. His critics would say he was just in the right place at the right time. Yet his fingerprints can be found on many of the projects, and either directly or indirectly, he did shape many of the growth issues over the last eight years.
Whatever the views about his tenure, it's a fact that Waddell is the last of Jackson County's elected "bosses." His critics say he was the stereotypical "boss hog" of local government. There is some indication, in fact, that the overwhelming vote two years ago to change the Jackson County government was as much a vote against Waddell's style as it was for a new board of commissioners.
Still, no future chairman in Jackson County will have the authority that Waddell had for eight years. By law, that has been changed. The appointed county manager will now be in charge on a day-to-day basis. Future chairmen will have to build consensus to get things done.
For new county commission members, the Waddell years offer several important lessons that, if heeded, will make governing Jackson County easier:
1. Make sure you surround yourself with knowledgeable people. One of Jerry Waddell's biggest mistakes after taking office was to get rid of a lot of people who could have helped him, people with experience and skill that he found difficult to replace. Like many new politicians, Waddell was too anxious to put his own people in power early in his tenure. But loyalty without knowledge can create more problems than it solves.
2. Don't let politics get personal. It took Waddell several years to learn this lesson, but once he did, he became a better chairman. No matter what the issue, public officials should never fixate on personality conflicts or make decisions based on whom they like or dislike. Reasonable disagreement is fine and a natural part of the political process. But inexperienced public officials, as Waddell was in 1993, often make policy disagreements personal issues.
3. Pick your fights carefully. During the last couple of years, Waddell had become much more astute in picking his battles. Early on, he got caught up in too many political fights and that just magnified the controversy. Once he learned to pick his battles, his tenure became much smoother.
4. When you do draw a line, stand firm. Jerry Waddell is known as "The Bull" because he's stubborn. That wasn't always an asset, but it did serve him well on those key issues when strong leadership was needed. On the Bear Creek and Water Wise issues, Waddell's strong stands made a huge difference. Where others might have caved in, he stood his ground and Jackson County is the better for that.
There is no simple way to sum up Jerry Waddell's tenure as chairman of the commission. For nearly eight years, I watched him in office. Sometimes I criticized his actions, other times I praised his tough leadership.
But I can't say I ever fully understood him. He proved to be far more complex a personality than either his defenders or his critics ever realized.
The new county manager system will no doubt prove to be better for Jackson County in the future. But the dynamics will be different. It will be more of a government by committee than one dominated by a single individual.
Jerry Waddell was the last of a kind. And whether you agree or disagree with the tone of his tenure, you've got to admit that there was never a dull moment during the last eight years.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
January 3, 2001

Nicholson Heading Toward A Solution?
Maybe after a flurry of political infighting, Nicholson enters the new year on a positive note. The town's three elected officials have met to lay down some general ground rules so they can at least conduct the city's business.
That means patrons of the Harold Swindle Public Library should soon be able to check out books, city hall should soon be open for business with regular hours and a sense of normalcy should return to a town divided since early December over politics and personality.
Voters should be aware that the political differences still remain. Council members Thomas Gary and Margaret Ward remain firm in their conviction that a zoning ordinance should be implemented, and Mayor Ronnie Maxwell remains firm in his position that Nicholson does not need a zoning ordinance. But while that has been the overriding political issue, the city government has other business to take care of day to day, week to week.
Maxwell says a "healing process" has started, a major component of which is that none of the officials will use this or other newspapers as means by which to swipe at the opposition. Certainly more can be settled when opposing views are aired in person than when the only contact is through each others' quotes in news stories or from second-hand reports at the country store.
There do remain issues that can only be resolved at public meetings by the three elected officials, or by five elected officials if and when the two remaining seats on the city council are filled. Nicholson is in for some intense debate and strong emotions when the zoning matter is brought to the table; that is good and appropriate. But in Nicholson as in any other community, the government should be able to wade through the controversial issues without self-destructing.
Today, the city's three officials are at least talking to each other. That's progress.

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