Columbia County commissioners received an unusual request and a gentle admonishment at Tuesday’s Management and Financial Services Committee meeting when they heard a presentation regarding the naming ordinance the county is revising.
The presentation, made by Carol Swift, first cousin to the late Pat Hardaway, Columbia County’s long-serving probate judge, pointed out that the county has several things named for men, but nothing named after a woman.
“Don’t get me wrong — I have no objection for Charlie Norwood having a street named after him, but he was not a congressman for 47 years,” she said. “I have no objection that we have a street named for Ronald Regan, but he was not a president for 47 years. I don’t know that he did that much for Columbia County, but that’s a matter of opinion.”
There was an audible reaction to that particular remark. The Columbia County Government Center, of course, is on Ronald Regan Drive, and given the political makeup of the elected officials, even oblique criticism of the nation’s 40th president is jarring.
“I don’t object to seeing the Blanchards, Eubanks, Tankersleys — I apologize if I step on toes — Pollards, Sheriff Otis Hensley and Tommy King, having things named after them,” she continued. “This shows how much Columbia County appreciates the men who have paved the way, served or were elected to serve in Columbia County. I just feel that it is now time for the women who have been elected, served and worked passionately for what they felt was best for Columbia County to be acknowledged.”
Hardaway died in office 1n 2011, and Swift said she felt that an appropriate recognition of her 47 years of service would be to have the Appling Courthouse named after her.
“She loved the courthouse,” Swift said. “She was always quick to correct those who said they’d been to the Evans courthouse. She would smile that infectious smile of hers and say, ‘The courthouse is in Appling, the Justice Center is in Evans.”
She added the names of several other women she felt deserved to have things named in their honor, including EMA Director Pam Tucker and the late Deborah Marshall, who served as the county’s director of the Board of Elections.
“You all have done a wonderful job,” she told the male commissioners. “Now it’s time for the women.”
While the commission did not act on Swift’s request, they did discuss changes they’ve been making to the naming ordinance. According to Deputy Administrator Glenn Kennedy, the new ordinance provides a standard naming process, including a process for honorary road names. It also clearly allows roads to be named after a business and discourages, but allows, the renaming of roads.
Chairman Ron Cross questioned a provision that allowed for things to be named only after deceased people who have made significant contributions to Columbia County or living people who have made significant financial contributions.
“I think the policy and the practice should be discouraged from doing that,” he said of naming things for living people, “but nevertheless, I think there might be situations where that would be appropriate to occur.”
His point: as written, the new ordinance would have prohibited the naming of the Lady Antebellum Amphitheatre, which though somewhat controversial at the time has become a selling point for the venue.
Kennedy said he would adjust the ordinance to reflect his concerns. The full commission will revisit the ordinance at the June 17 meeting.