By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
June 26, 2002
A Super Nice, Real Good Guy"
Write something good about me, or I'll come back and kill you," said the man in the blue jacket and white cowboy hat.
It was Jimmy Dean, slinking into the back of the Commerce Civic Center through the loading dock like a cat burglar last Thursday night. He was accompanied by his wife, Donna Meade Dean, who graciously, made no threats, Jan Howard and Bill Anderson, who had just introduced me as the guy who runs the local newspaper. Clearly Jimmy Dean follows the Dick Cheney school on media relations.
Normally, I would not succumb to a threat, particularly since it was made in the presence of two Commerce police detectives. But Chad Knight stuck his fingers in his ears to signal that he would ignore what the law calls a "terroristic threat," while David Willoughby at first looked shocked, but, upon recovering, appeared ready to offer Dean a bullet. I filed a complaint with chief John Gaissert the following evening, but his laughter suggested that a request for round-the-clock protection would not be treated with the appropriate gravity.
Wheres a good cop when you really need one?
Frankly, I thought it was rude of the Sausage King to threaten the help and would have told him so if I wasn't afraid someone else would get hurt if he was packing heat and decided not to wait until the paper came out.
I was just there to be of assistance, having finally found something (washing dishes) for which my years of training had prepared me. I was a bit player in a cast of over a hundred that night and we had our own stars at work, if I may boast.
In view of the dangerous threats being made, I will not divulge names. But in the kitchen area alone we had a country musician (and his daughter, a talented dancer), a head football coach, two insurance barons and a couple of grill masters. Elsewhere, we had chefs, master educators, artists, a powerful state representative, artists, athletes and representatives of every noble trade, profession and industry.
(It was not duty for the weak. The football coach suffered, so he said, a crippling injury to his hand while operating the elevator. The attorneys are working on the liability suit as you read this.)
Others of equal rank had already put on the City Lights Shoot-Out golf tournament and the following night still more would redirect their skills toward putting on the City Lights Concert. They took tickets, parked cars, drove buses, worked concessions, prepared food and did countless other chores that are necessary (along with the talent of the musicians) to pull off an event of that magnitude.
If Vince Gill threatened to kill anyone, I've not heard, but just in case, Gill, for the record, is a nice guy and talented singer.
Jimmy Dean, let me make this PERFECTLY CLEAR, is a great guy, sings better than Elvis, tells really funny jokes and makes the best sausage in North America, nay, the Western Hemisphere.
Please don't hurt me, sir. And when you come back for another City Lights event, if you have any extra sausage ...
The Jackson Herald
June 26, 2002
Leadership vacuum at the core
Jackson County is fortunate in many respects. Unlike a lot of rural areas, our economy is not struggling for survival. Growth in the community is creating employment and bringing in new investments. And even with the problems associated with growth, the pace has not been such that it has overwhelmed our existing infrastructure.
Lets point to a few highlights of Jackson County today:
With Bear Creek now on-line, our water needs should be secure for many years to come. The available supply of water will be a huge boost to Jackson County in an era of drought.
Speaking of water, the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority has emerged as one of the strongest public organizations in the county. It has strong leadership and although it began only in the 1980s, it is making progress on providing water countywide. Its more recent entry into sewerage will be an important step for the community, a step that will pay dividends down the road.
Our public school systems are at peace and working together. Historically, our three school systems and their boards of education were a source of much political bickering in Jackson County, but today they are allies in the very difficult task of meeting the needs of public education. They are, for example, planning for future growth needs with the construction of new facilities. And they have been successful in keeping the quality of local public education high in spite of a slew of new state and federal mandates.
The local business and industrial community is stronger today than it has ever been. The work of the chamber of commerce and county industrial development authority is bringing in new investments to Jackson County, creating both a stronger tax base and new jobs. City business organizations in Commerce and Jefferson are strong. The growth of a home builders association is a much needed counterweight to the growing demands of government. The overall leadership in our business community is operating at the highest level ever.
The leadership in our towns is, for the most part, the strongest it has been in years. In fact, they are currently holding joint meetings to discuss areas of mutual interest. Individually, they are tackling problems that in many communities has been neglected for years. And while there are a few dark clouds hanging over some of our towns, overall they are at least attempting to better serve their constituents.
But for all the strength evident in our countys overall leadership, there is one glaring weakness: A gaping leadership vacuum at the center with our board of commissioners.
Thats a shame because the BOC touches on almost every other leadership organization in the county, if not directly then certainly indirectly. On a leadership chart, the BOC would certainly be in the center, overlapping all the other leadership groups.
There are many problems with our BOC, most of which have been discussed, and cussed, in this space before.
But if we had to boil all those issues down to their core, it becomes obvious that this board suffers from a lack of leadership.
Simply getting elected does not make one a leader.
Wielding power does not make one a leader.
Making decisions does not equate to leadership.
Indeed, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact nature of leadership. Leadership is intangible, a quality that is a unique combination of intellect and insight that is framed by the willpower to do public good.
We believe there are those on the BOC who have the capability to become good leaders. Occasionally, we have glimpsed momentary flashes of leadership from within that group.
But for a variety of reasons, BOC members have either defaulted on that duty, or not yet stepped forward to assume the role.
Until that changes, Jackson County will continue to have a vacuum at the core of its leadership. And consequently, we will never reach our full potential as a community.
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
June 26, 2002
Are you older than dirt?
I received the following from Jerry Fleeman, a former resident of Jefferson and childhood friend who now lives in South Carolina. Jerry said he scored in the older than dirt category, due to the fact that he hung around the Western Auto store, Joe Baxters and Owen Webbs as a kid in Jefferson.
Im afraid I was right there with him back then and find myself older than I want to be.
See how you score:
Older than dirt quiz
Count all the ones you remember.
1. Blackjack chewing gum
2. Wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water.
3. Candy cigarettes.
4. Soda pop machines that dispensed bottles
5. Coffee shops with table side jukeboxes.
6. Home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers.
7. Party phone lines.
8. Newsreels before the movie.
9. P.F. Flyers
10. Butch Wax
11. Telephone numbers with a word prefix (Olive-6933)
13. Howdy Doody
14. 45 RPM records
15. S&H Green Stamps
17. Metal ice trays with lever
18. Mimeograph paper
19. Blue flashbulb
21. Roller skate keys
22. Cork popguns
25. Wash tub wringers
If you remember:
0-5 Youre still young
6-10 Getting older
11-15 Dont tell your age
16-25 Older than dirt.
Now, Im going to add a few old questions of my own:
How many of you:
1. Were a member of the Daniel Boone Club?
2. Saw the Roy Rogers television show on Saturday mornings?
3. Know what the Sky King show was about?
4. Utilized a real outhouse without a ceramic seat?
5. Can sing the refrain to Crimson and Clover from memory?
6. Bought baseball cards when they had bubble gum inside the pack?
7. Were a hippie, saw a hippie or even know what a hippie was?
8. Know who Officer Don was?
9. Watched Captain Kangaroo and can name his sidekick?
10. Crowded around a black and white television to watch a Mercury, Gemini or Apollo launch?
If you have any idea what those 10 items are about, then I know youre middle age or older.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
June 26, 2002
Time To Check On Sales Tax Payments
It may be too early to panic over dropping sales tax revenues, but it's not too early for local governments to start doing some detective work.
With the economy still struggling, it stands to reason that retail sales, upon which all Jackson County sales taxes are based, would be down. But if sales continue to be 30 percent off what is considered normal, it's time to wonder if there is more than a recession at work.
It wasn't that long ago that a Jackson County audit of the Tanger II Factory Outlet stores found that several of them were paying their sales tax to Banks or other counties (and a few in Banks County were found to be paying taxes on behalf of Jackson as well). The situation was straightened out and the money more than $1.2 million was recovered. But stores and store managers change frequently and people in corporate headquarters have no clue what county each store is located in, so it is not impossible to imagine that some stores are paying their taxes to the wrong county.
The mechanism is in place for Jackson County to audit all retail stores. This serves two purposes. First, assures that each individual store pays its sales taxes on behalf of Jackson County. Secondly, it would allow local leaders to know how much money was paid in sales taxes in Jackson County so they would know how much to expect back from the Department of Revenue.
We're talking big bucks here and nothing has been done since 1999 to make sure local stores, especially those owned by chains headquartered elsewhere and with other branches throughout the state, are paying the taxes they owe. It is incumbent upon local officials to be vigilant because the Department of Revenue cannot be trusted to get everything right.
In Jackson County, when one thinks of sales taxes, one thinks of Tanger Factory Outlets. The outlet complex has collected millions of dollars in sales taxes designed to fund the construction and renovation of schools, to build water and sewer lines and to provide roads and recreation. The stores are collecting the taxes and sending the money to the Department of Revenue. Jackson County officials need to make sure that store managers and corporate officials are using the proper county code so that those funds get credited to Jackson County, not Henry, Dawson or Banks counties.
In 1999, sales tax revenues were lagging, Jackson County investigated and recovered diverted money. It's 2002, sales are lagging again, a lot more than the economy would suggest. It's time for county officials to investigate once again.