There are heavy hearts in Augusta’s Municipal Building this week.
Just last month, Augusta commissioners and city leaders were forced to face the harsh reality that Super District 10 Commissioner Grady Smith had died on Oct. 16, leaving an empty seat on the commission.
This week, with heavy hearts, the commission moved to swear in Commissioner-Elect John Clarke to replace Smith’s vacant seat.
But as many of his colleagues and friends have recently stated, no one will ever be able to replace the kind heart and humor of Grady Smith.
Sadly, however, tragedy has once again struck the Augusta Commission.
This past Sunday, city leaders were shocked to learn that another colleague, District 5 Commissioner Andrew Jefferson, had also passed away suddenly at 58 years old.
Jefferson, who took office in 2017, was attending a worship service this past Sunday at Good Shepherd Baptist Church when he suddenly collapsed. He was taken to University Hospital where he later died.
Jefferson, who had previously served on the Richmond County School Board and had retired from Augusta Technical College in 2016 after more than 30 years in education, still had two years left of his four-year term.
But it’s too early to even think about someone else taking over Jefferson’s seat.
Instead, this week is a time for mourning the loss of another Augusta commissioner.
“We are saddened by the sudden passing of Augusta Commissioner Andrew Jefferson,” the Augusta Fire Department stated on its Facebook page. “Our sympathy goes out to his family, friends and the citizens of Augusta. Commissioner Jefferson was a true gentleman, had great spirit and his presence will truly be missed.”
Jefferson was a quiet man on the Augusta Commission, but when he spoke, people listened because his arguments were always well thought out.
Jefferson, who was the former director of continuing education at Augusta Tech and had worked at the college since 1991, also was a proud resident of south Augusta.
He was a strong advocate of the new James Brown Arena being built at the former Regency Mall site.
In fact, Jefferson felt the Augusta Commission was “infringing on the rights” of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority by not letting the authority officially decide the location of the new arena.
“The coliseum authority is an authority, and they should make a recommendation to us,” Jefferson said earlier this year. “We should not hold their feet to the fire or threaten to fund or not to fund the arena.”
The decision on the location and design of the arena should be in the authority’s hands, Jefferson frequently said.
“I think if we strip the power from the coliseum authority, we become a dictator,” Jefferson said earlier this year. “I don’t think this body wants to be known as a dictator.”
Jefferson was extremely passionate about his beliefs and stood firmly in support of his community, especially south Augusta.
“I’m an advocate for small-business people,” Jefferson once told the Metro Spirit. “Richmond County is in need of economic growth, especially in south Richmond County. We have businesses closing, and we need new businesses.”
The loss of both Jefferson and Smith has left a huge hole on the Augusta Commission that will be extremely difficult to fill.
Thank you for your service to this community, gentlemen.