A rumor had been circling for months in Columbia County that Commissioner Doug Duncan would be running against former EMA Director Pam Tucker for the chairman seat on the commission.
Well, that rumor became reality this week.
Duncan sent out a press release on Friday announcing that he will officially kick off his campaign at a reception this Tuesday, Sept. 26.
“I’m running for Commission Chairman to keep moving our community forward,” Duncan said in the release. “For years, I have worked to grow jobs, secure investment, and ensure economic opportunity in Columbia County. During my time on the Commission, we have implemented smart solutions to fix our transportation challenges while holding the line on taxes and government spending.”
Duncan, who was elected to the county’s District 1 seat in 2015, insisted that he would fight to build an even brighter future for Columbia County.
“As Chairman, I will fight to make Columbia County #1 for business, lead on infrastructure and transportation, and work to enhance our quality of life,” he stated in the press release. “With bold leadership and a clear vision for our future, we can ensure that Columbia County’s best and brightest days are always ahead.”
Not only will Duncan be fighting for a better future for Columbia County, but he will also be battling Tucker in the 2018 election.
While both Tucker and Duncan are well-respected individuals in this community, there will be a lot of additional controversy and extra baggage brought into this race.
After all, when Tucker abruptly resigned from her longtime position as EMA director in January, she didn’t leave quietly.
In her letter of resignation on Jan. 31, Tucker basically turned the county upside down.
“During the last few years, I have endured a hostile work environment by the administrator, who has an on-going deliberate campaign to force me out of my job,” Tucker wrote in her resignation letter, referring to County Administrator Scott Johnson. “Time and time again, I have tried to be strong and keep focused on my job since that is my passion and has been for a large part of my life. The latest of many verbal attacks on me is more than I can suffer.”
The accusations against Johnson absolutely floored citizens throughout the county.
Now, it should be pointed out that an internal investigation by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office found no evidence to support Tucker’s claim that Johnson had created a hostile work environment.
But it took months before the report was released to the public, so gossip and speculation over the accusations consumed the county for the entire first part of the year.
When the sheriff’s report was finally made public, the Board of Columbia County Commissioners announced that they accepted the findings of internal investigation and continued to support Johnson as administrator.
During a news conference in May, Duncan told the audience that he had read and reread the sheriff’s report about the investigation about three times and felt that there was no wrongdoing on the part of either Johnson or Tucker, who was also accused of creating a hostile work environment by the former EMA deputy director, Rusty Welsh.
“Pam had a few issues with employees, but you can pick those out. Scott had a few issues with employees. But there was nothing in the whole report — in any way, shape or fashion — that gave the indication of a hostile workplace environment,” Duncan said, adding that he supported Johnson in his role as county administrator. “Nobody’s perfect and everybody has areas where they can improve. Scott runs a real tight ship. He does a really good job. But, when you’re in the public eye, as he is, you just have to watch how you present yourself sometimes.”
As for Tucker’s role in the county, Duncan told the media that he also supported the former EMA director and found her to be an invaluable part of the county’s government.
“I begged her not to quit,” Duncan told the press. “I said, ‘Don’t. Let’s work this out. We can fix this.’ And it just wasn’t to be. It’s all just really disappointing and we are where we are so we’re going to move forward.”
Columbia County Chairman Ron Cross had much harsher words to say against Tucker, who is running to win his seat on the commission.
“I didn’t realize the undertow was as strong among division directors, concerning Mrs. Tucker’s very narcissistic personality. Everything was about Pam,” Cross said during the May press conference. “I think over the years, people have gone out of their way to cater to her because of her sensitivity to constructive criticism and her ability to shut down completely if something was said she did not like.”
“One comment was that she was queen of the cut and paste,” Cross added, explaining that some employees accused Tucker of taking full credit for their work. “There were other comments that they ‘had to walk on egg shells around her.’”
But what truly bothered Cross was the fact that Tucker told him that “if she could get her severance, she would go quietly.”
“I didn’t like the tone of that then and I don’t like it today,” Cross said in May.
Those are not comments made by someone who cares about Columbia County, he said.
“It has been said that Mrs. Tucker was the face of Columbia County. She may be,” Cross said, looking around the room filled with county staff and commissioners. “But she is not the heart, the soul and backbone of Columbia County. That is right here with the people in this room.”
Following the press conference, Tucker had stern words for the county commissioners.
“After viewing a portion of the press conference and several updates, I could not be prouder of the decision that I’ve made to run for Commission Chair,” Tucker posted on her Facebook page. “Today’s display is a perfect example of why I decided to do what I have done. I feel like the only reason these folks made disparaging comments about me personally – as well as my work ethic, my leadership abilities, and my dedication is for one simple reason – because I have decided to run for Commission Chair. The most comforting thing about the report is that the Board of Commissioners and the Investigators acknowledge that I have done nothing wrong.”
Tucker insisted she was a perfect candidate for commission chair.
“I’ve been a dedicated public servant my entire adult life and I look forward to moving on with my campaign and putting an end to this situation,” she wrote. “I truly look forward to fostering a team of adult leadership on the Board of Commissioners when you – the people of Columbia County – elect our #TeamTucker to the Commission Chair.”
She ended her post, by saying, “It’s Tucker Time!”
Needless to say, next year will be one hell of an election season.