The Commerce News
October 24, 2001
New Challenge To Be Interesting
I didn't give Mike Beatty a tortoise's chance of beating a hare
when he took on incumbent Senator Eddie Madden in 2000. Beatty
beat Madden badly, not tortoise-like by any stretch of the imagination.
Beatty had performed miserably in the Georgia House in 1991-1992,
waffling on legislation related to a school merger effort, which
alienated him to people on both sides. Later, he flopped again
on an annexation bill Commerce wanted, winning no friends here.
But Beatty is personable and a good campaigner and he exploited
weaknesses in his opponent to oust Madden. His good fortune continued
this year when he seized upon the kind of morality issue about
which he is most passionate and was spared the indignities of
controversial local legislation. Whether Beatty was actually
responsible for getting video poker legislation passed may be
a matter of interpretation, but there can be no doubt that he
was the person who made it a front-burner issue that even Gov.
Roy Barnes had to address. He well deserves the credit for that
The so-called conventional wisdom a year ago was that in exchange
for running against Madden, the GOP hierarchy would support Beatty
in a congressional bid in 2002. So much for conventional wisdom.
Timing is crucial in politics. The reach of the Republican Party
in the election will be extended or shortened by how the public
perceives George Bush to be doing in Washington. Bush has the
advantage of being president following an attack on America,
when the country is more united than ever. But if the economy
continues to worsen, terrorism spreads and the war in Afghanistan
stalls, the president may not only lose his coattails, but may
become a liability. On the other hand, if that war brings about
some decisive victories (the death of Osama bin Laden, for example),
and the economy improves, those coattails could get very long
and the GOP could find itself taking up residency in the Governor's
Mansion and controlling the Georgia Senate.
Before Beatty gets that far, he's got to win the GOP nomination
in what could be a nasty, vicious primary ill-suited to Beatty's
style. Last year, Beatty showed no hesitancy in absolutely distorting
Madden's legislative record. Should he take a similar low-road
approach against a well-respected Republican opponent for lieutenant
governor, he could get more back than he bargained for, damage
his standing in the party and, if he wins, enter the final campaign
That Beatty had greater political aspirations than being a state
senator has never been in question. He's much more attuned to
the conservative Republican "family values" concept
than to the nuts and bolts of local and state issues, and the
bully pulpit for promoting that agenda is not found in the 47th
Senatorial District. Beatty wants to overturn Roe vs. Wade, get
prayer back in the classroom, make desecration of the American
flag illegal and complete the entire Newt Gingrich checklist
that brought the GOP glory when Ronald Reagan was president.
Beatty has an uphill battle, but these are strange times. Whatever
happens, it'll be worth watching.
The Jackson Herald
October 24, 2001
to anthrax fears
The outbreak of terrorist-inspired anthrax cases has created
a new level of fear across the nation. Even as our Congressmen
called on Americans to resume their "normal" lives,
those same leaders fled like scared sheep when anthrax was discovered
in their own offices.
So much for leadership. Between Rep. Cynthia McKinney's antics
as an apologist for terrorism and her cohorts trembling when
mail arrives, one has to wonder if there are any leaders left
Fortunately, President Bush has not backed off his pledge to
destroy those who harbor terrorism, starting with the Taliban
Still, the terrorists have achieved their goal of instilling
fear in Americans, from the Congress down to rural residents
in Jackson County. Last week, a number of people called law enforcement
agencies to report "suspicious" mail or packages.
But it's very unlikely that local residents would be the target
of terrorism via the mail. It is fear not based on reality.
While the attacks on this nation are serious, let's not become
paranoid every time the mailman comes to our doors. As both a
nation and as individuals, we must not allow fear to overcome
Real courage is having the ability to face our fears and carry
on in spite of them.
It's time for our Congressmen and our citizens to show that courage
and not overreact out of fear.
The Jackson Herald
October 24, 2001
Nalley not a good marriage
There was no great surprise in last week's action by the Jackson
County Board of Commissioners to part company with county manager
Skip Nalley. With a new board structure, new board members and
a new county manager, this year was fated to be one of change
and upheaval in county administration.
Any person who became Jackson County's first manager would have
had a tough time. Not only is there the county to run, but also
a new board to deal with.
In truth, both the BOC and Nalley share the burden for the parting.
Like many marriages, this union just didn't work out and it's
difficult to point fingers at either party or define exactly
what went wrong.
For its part, the board has been in such a transition during
the first 10 months of its existence that no cohesive leadership
has emerged. If the board has a vision of where it would like
Jackson County to head, or if any of its members individually
have such a vision, that has not been apparent.
Perhaps that lack of strong leadership by the board came in part
from its perception that such leadership should come from the
county manager. It appears that part of the board was waiting
for Nalley to grab the reins and guide them through the various
issues facing county government. That, however, didn't happen.
For his part, Nalley may have wanted more guidance from the board.
On administrative dealings, most board members give him good
marks. But on overall leadership, the board seems to be split
on Nalley's performance.
"He's supposed to be the expert," one board member
told me, frustrated by what he perceived as a lack of initiative
by Nalley to pull the board along in the decision-making process.
But other board members say the board itself didn't give Nalley
enough direction. That split is a fundamental difference that
was unlikely to end with both parties happy.
So where does the board go from here?
Before the BOC can begin to search for a new county manager,
those five men will have to decide among themselves just what
kind of manager they are looking for. Do they want someone who
is good on the inside details of county government, a person
who thrives off the daily nuts-and-bolts, or do they want someone
who is more a "big picture" person?
That's an important distinction. While future candidates for
this job may have similar backgrounds, their approaches to the
job will be different. Some of the candidates will be great at
the daily grind of administering budget numbers and in dealing
with personnel issues. Other candidates will be content to delegate
those duties to assistants while they focus on county PR and
overall direction of the county government.
All organizations, whether they are corporations or non-profit
groups or governments, go through cycles in their management
needs. There are times when an organization needs a lot of hands-on
administration; at other times, the organization needs someone
with a broader view, an ideas person who can help create growth
Both viewpoints are valid, but the board will have to reach some
consensus between the two before they hire a replacement for
Nalley. If the board wants an "ideas manager," it will
have to frame its selection process to fit that criteria. If
it wants a "nuts-and-bolts manager," the selection
process and criteria will be different.
To determine which type manager would be best suited for Jackson
County today, the BOC will have to do an objective appraisal
of the status of the current county government. What are its
real strengths? What are its biggest weaknesses? Where does a
county manager need to focus his time and energy?
That's a difficult decision, but from the outside looking in,
it appears that this board needs a manager with a broad view,
one who will be aggressive and who will lead the board rather
than be led by the board.
It's not that the current board is weak, but it is inexperienced.
It cannot develop a county vision without strong leadership.
In addition, Jackson County is a complex mixture of government
agencies. Some get along well with the county government, others
barely communicate with the county. It will take a strong personality
to work those levers of power and to keep the local political
landscape on an even keel.
There will be a time in the future when Jackson County will need
a nuts-and-bolts administrator. But right now, it needs leadership
and a strong voice that will build confidence.
Skip Nalley wasn't that type manager. It's probably best that
he and his board dealt with that now rather than letting a weak
marriage endure for another year.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
October 24, 2001
Time To Be Alert
But Not Overly Fearful
The reports of people being exposed to anthrax through the mail
system have led to a nationwide outbreak of reports of "suspicious"
mail that run from legitimate concerns to hoaxes to paranoia
and are tying up law enforcement personnel at the local, state
and federal levels.
Jackson County is not immune. Commerce alone has had at least
six calls for assistance; several others have occurred in Jackson
County. It's time to use a little common sense and put this situation
The likelihood of anyone local being on a terrorist target list
is so low as to be laughable; the odds of real anthrax being
delivered here are incredibly minute. A much more plausible scenario
is that someone would take advantage of the hysteria created
by terrorists to make a threat by sending a powder or granular
substance to an ex-spouse or someone with whom they are engaged
in a dispute. Terroristic threats and harassment cases are all
too common here. But by far the biggest cause of alarm are pieces
of mail that are totally harmless except that the recipients
have convinced themselves they might be threatening.
Citizens should use caution but also common sense. It's not time
to call 911 because a scented letter or unsolicited correspondence
arrives. If the recipient has received no palpable threats, has
no other reason to feel threatened and the mail appears unthreatening,
there is no cause for alarm. If the recipient has received threats
in the past by telephone or otherwise, there is still probably
no danger, but caution is certainly warranted and calling 911
is prudent. If an envelope actually contains or appears to contain
a powder or granular substance, the threat of exposure to anthrax
is still very remote, but all caution should be exercised and
the matter reported to law enforcement agencies. Regardless of
what the substance is, any threat constitutes a terroristic act
and is a felony. Law enforcement agencies will pursue the case
and the perpetrator, if caught, could face prison time.
In short, there is no reason for anyone in Jackson County to
feel more at risk for anthrax exposure today than a month ago.
While we must all recognize that we now live in a more threatening
world and should be more cautious than in the past, we should
also realize that the chance of actually being subjected to acts
of terror remains very low. In short, be alert but not fearful.
Vaccinate For Smallpox
While the real and perceived threats of anthrax are being attended
to, medical professionals are far more concerned about the use
of an old enemy as a weapon of mass destruction.
That enemy is smallpox, a devastating disease all but wiped off
the face of the planet by the systematic vaccination of children.
The eradication effort was so successful that the disease was
considered virtually extinct and the vaccinations discontinued.
But it was not eradicated. Samples of smallpox have been maintained
in scientific laboratories including biological warfare
facilities and it is hardly inconceivable that terrorist
organizations or nations like Iraq that are sympathetic to terrorists
have it. If an outbreak of anthrax is seen as a scary event,
an outbreak of smallpox, which is terribly contagious, could
have an effect like the black plague, sweeping across the planet
against an unprotected populace.
As part of its war on terrorism, the Department of Homeland Defense
should give very strong consideration to reinstituting the nationwide
inoculation program against smallpox. Medicine eradicated the
threat of smallpox from occurring in nature, but the threat of
it being introduced by mankind is all too real. Every person
in America should be vaccinated against this potential plague.