Another Candidate for Mayor of Augusta! Yay Us!
As we reported last month, Matt Aitken has decided to make a run for mayor. He needs a job, has been on the commission before and why not? Let’s hop in the way back machine and see what the Insider thought of the last to mayoral candidates who turned out not to be mayoral candidates.
Cheek should think twice about running for mayor
Last week, former Augusta Commissioner Andy Cheek surprised folks by announcing that he plans to move back to Augusta and run for mayor.
Not only does he plan to sell his house in North Augusta, but he wants to live on Broad Street.
Does he not remember what happened last time he decided to run for office?
In 2009, after moving to North Augusta, Cheek decided he was going to run for the Aiken County Council’s District 5 seat, which was being vacated by Eddie Butler.
During his 2009 campaign, Cheek boasted that Augusta’s neighbors across the Savannah River seemed to value progress over petty politics.
“I decided to run for Aiken County Council after hearing the same old thing from candidates with no experience that promised voters the moon and the stars,” Cheek said. “I figured, with all of my years of experience of being in the crucible over here in Augusta, I could accomplish even more on the Aiken County Council where people actually listen to each other and work toward a common good.”
Cheek proclaimed himself a South Carolinian whose family had been a part of Aiken County for more than 100 years. He told voters that he attended the University of South Carolina in Aiken and that his family cemetery was located in Bath, S.C.
“That is where I’ll be buried,” he insisted.
He also was quick to throw jabs at Augusta’s government.
“It’s funny. You can drive down Georgia Avenue in South Carolina and you can see a new municipal center that was conceived, designed and built in about a fifth of the time we spent on Augusta’s judicial center,” Cheek said in 2009. “As Augusta continues to look down its nose at its neighbors, calling them bedroom communities, if they could be half as progressive and productive, Augusta would be in good shape.”
Cheek insisted that Aiken County had a different philosophy of government than Richmond County.
“Leaders there will come into a meeting with an open mind,” Cheek said of Aiken County. “They may have an opinion about a certain thing, but they will actually sit down and listen to your opinion. And, in the process of the discussion, they may actually change their mind based on what they’ve heard. It’s called working together. For me, it will be such a breath of fresh air.”
Even with all of his praise of the Palmetto State, Cheek still did not fare well at the polls.
On election day, Cheek only received 7.7 percent of the total vote.
That sounds bad, but when you actually studied the low turnout of voters during that 2009 election, the news was even worse.
Cheek received a total of 47 votes in the entire District 5 race.
That’s less than a lot of folks receive in elections to a homeowners association.
And now Cheek wants to walk back over the 13th Street Bridge and tell Augusta voters that he wants to lead the Garden City?
That is going to be a hard sell. A very hard sell.
Fred Russell for mayor? Um… no.
There have been wild rumors this week down at the Marble Palace that recently fired City Administrator Fred Russell is considering a run for mayor. What in the world?Augustans can only hope this is a bad joke that county employees are spreading around town to simply make Russell’s awkward exit a little less uncomfortable.A run for mayor would probably be the worst possible move that Russell could make.Let’s just say Russell somehow managed to win this year’s mayoral election over the likes of other possible candidates such as Augustacommissioners Alvin Mason and Joe Jackson, state Sen. Hardie Davis, former mayoral candidate Helen Blocker-Adams and local businessman Charles Cummings.
For the next several years, Russell would be forced to work with many of the Augusta commissioners who voted to fire him from the position he has held for almost a decade. And the manner in which the commission fired Russell — all without a word and not even allowing him to be told firsthand that he no longer had a job — that could only result in total distain and ill feelings towards the board.Several years ago, former Augusta Mayor Larry Sconyers offered some simple advice: “Ill feelings are like cancer. They don’t hurt the person you are angry at, they only eat away at you.”All for what?
The mayor basically presides over all the Augusta Commission meetings; serves as the official head of Richmond County for ceremonial purposes; administers oaths; signs all written contracts entered into by the commission on behalf of Augusta-Richmond County; helps appoint committees; and can vote to break a tie on the commission. That’s about it. Why in the world would Russell want to put up with the Augusta Commission for that? If Russell wants to continue working, he surely has several opportunities. After all, Russell, a former deputy police chief from Richmond, Va., came to Augusta in 2002 after he was hired by his friend and former City Administrator George Kolb. When Kolb left Augusta in 2004, Russell, then a deputy administrator, was named interim city administrator. By 2005, he as given the top seat as city administrator. He stayed in that position for almost a decade. That’s definitely something to be proud of.
But it’s time to move on. Russell should follow in the footsteps of his former friend, Kolb, and look for something new. Start fresh, either in a new city or simply a new job. Walk away from Augusta politics and don’t look back. Take another gem of advice from the consolidated government’s first city administrator, Randy Oliver. Oliver used to joke that the worst move an administrator (or former administrator) could make is to try to play politics with elected officials. “If you play around in politics, at some point, the horse you are riding is going to die,” Oliver would say. “And when your horse is dead, you’re dead.” Words to live by, Mr. Russell. Good luck with your future endeavors. It is almost certain that 2014 will be a much better year for you.
(Unless you decide to run for mayor, that is. Please don’t do it.)