“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
― Abraham Lincoln
Everyone knows that elections are determined by the people who actually show up at the polls.
It’s that simple.
But some local citizens may not understand the impact of their vote on May 24.
When voters head to polls over the next few days, many will be choosing from dozens of candidates competing in races for the Georgia House, U.S. Congress, the Augusta Commission, State Court judgeships, the Georgia Senate, Richmond County Marshal, Superior Court judgeships and the Richmond County Board of Education.
Over the past several weeks, the Metro Spirit has interviewed numerous local candidates, attended several candidate forums and highlighted some of the most crucial local races.
With less than a week before the May 24 election, here is one final chance for voters to educate themselves about many of the candidates on the ballot before heading to the polls.
The future is in your hands.
Under Atlanta’s Gold Dome
There are a lot of changes headed this way with the announcements that both Georgia Sen. Bill Jackson and Rep. Barbara Sims will be retiring at the end of this year’s term.
Jackson, who has represented Senate District 24 since 2007 and currently serves as Gov. Nathan Deal’s senior Senate floor leader, was also a member of the Georgia House of Representatives for more than 15 years.
For decades, Jackson has been a powerhouse under Atlanta’s Gold Dome and now there are five Republican candidates vying for that position including former state Rep. Lee Anderson; President of Sherman & Hemstreet Real Estate Company Joe Edge; former District 3 candidate on Columbia County Commission Greg Grzybowski; former chairwoman of the Columbia County Republican Party Pat Goodwin; and Realtor and mayor of Bowman, Ga., Peter Gibbons.
The winner of the Republican primary will face off against Democratic candidate Brenda Jordan in November.
With five candidates in the Republican primary, there will most definitely be a runoff in this election, but who will be the voters’ top choices?
During a recent political forum, former state Rep. Lee Anderson insisted that he shares the morals and values of those living in this area because he was raised in this community.
He told the audience that he was “conservative to the roots.”
“I am a farmer and a businessman,” Anderson said. “I have the experience to go back to Atlanta because I served on the Columbia County Board of Education, I’ve been a county commissioner and a state representative.”
Anderson, who has been endorsed by Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle, said that his main concern has always been the safety of local citizens.
“I will be connected and have connections with your law enforcement in all areas,” Anderson said, adding that he also believes in the importance of solid infrastructure including roads, bridges and sewer lines. “We need to strengthen that infrastructure and then get out of the way and let businesses create jobs and not the government.”
As the husband of a retired educator and father of two children, Anderson also said he is committed to ensuring a quality education for all local students.
“I believe in education,” he said during a political forum held by the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government last week. “Tonight I have the honor of having a date with my wife, who is with me tonight. She is a retired educator, 31 years in Columbia County. I believe in hiring the very best educators that we can and get out of the way and let them teach our children. Get the paperwork off of them. Let them teach our children.”
However, one of his competitors in the Senate District 24 race, Joe Edge, publicly questioned whether Anderson’s political experience was actually a benefit.
“One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Ben Carson. He said, ‘We’ve been conditioned to think that only politicians can solve our problems. But at some point, maybe we will wake up and recognize that it was politicians who created our problems,’” Edge told members of the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government. “I’m Joe Edge. I’m not a politician.”
After serving in the Marine Corps for four years, Edge moved back to Columbia County to start a career in real estate. As president of Sherman & Hemstreet Real Estate Company, Edge said he has tripled the size of his company over the last 10 years.
“It is one thing to stand up and talk about creating jobs,” Edge said. “It is another thing to actually do it.”
Edge said he completely understands the importance of offering out-of-state companies incentives to relocate to Georgia.
“I deal with this on a daily basis in my job,” he said. “In fact, I bet you, if I get you a list of the companies that I have relocated to this area, I bet everybody in this room would know somebody who works in one of those companies.”
But it is becoming harder and harder to attract new companies to Georgia because other states offer better tax incentives, Edge said.
“The problems that we have are serious,” he said. “It is related to our tax structure and our tax incentive programs. We need to go up there and change those because they are currently limiting us on economic development. In particular, with South Carolina. I am constantly seeing businesses look at South Carolina. They are killing us because we don’t have strong leadership in Atlanta that recognizes the problem and we don’t have politicians that have a plan on how to solve it. All they have is a plan to get re-elected again.”
The last thing residents of District 24 need is more rhetoric, Edge said.
“We all want our people to be safe. We all want to hire the best teachers. That is just a tag line designed to get the votes,” Edge said. “But how do you do it? What is the plan to actually do it?”
It is time for some fresh blood in both the state and local governments, Edge said.
“We talk about good government, we have a desperate need right now for good government,” he said. “I’ve had a front row seat in Richmond County at a lot of commission meetings and various events and, in Richmond County, we need good government. We need some changes. It is crazy to think that we are going to keep sending the same type of people to Atlanta and expect something different. It is time for new ideas, new people. We don’t need to resurrect failed ideas from the past. We need new leadership.”
With her long track record of service to this community and passion for the people in District 24, Pat Goodwin believes voters will get the most out of her leadership in Atlanta.
Goodwin currently serves as director of community relations and assistant to the broker at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. Prior to that, she was employed at Georgia Regents University, now Augusta University, where she served as a business manager supporting the Office of Advancement, Alumni and Community Affairs, Communications, Donor Relations, Government Affairs and Special Events.
“Sen. Jackson has served as a true champion of conservative values for the people of Georgia’s 24th district. His service over the years and most recently as an administration floor leader for Gov. Deal has given all public servants an amazing example to work towards,” Goodwin said. “He will be sorely missed in the Legislature. But, now is the time to make sure that we, as a district, elect a truly ethical conservative who will ensure that economic development, job creation, and ethics are at the forefront of Georgia’s future legislative agenda.”
However, as the mayor of Bowman, Ga., for the past several years, Pete Gibbons insists he has a better understanding of the issues facing the entire district, as well as the state, than any other candidate.
“I have learned government from the ground up,” Gibbons said. “I have learned the importance of our local, county and state legislators working together to make for a better community. I see state legislators work hard for me and I’m ready to return the favor as your state legislator and work with your county and local governments to make sure that we are bringing resources back to our community here.”
Gibbons insists he has dealt, first-hand, with many of the problems this district faces.
“As the only person over the last five years who has fought Atlanta, who has worked with our state legislators and who has brought resources back to our region, I’m ready to do that fight for everyone in District 24,” Gibbons said.
One of the main reasons Gibbons said he decided to run for office is because he wants to build a better future for his 4-year-old son Patrick.
“I want him to have a home he is proud of,” Gibbons said, adding that his goal is to help spur economic development and job growth in District 24 so that his son will be able to stay in the area and not be forced to move away in order to find a professional job.
“That way, I can go watch my grandkids’ little league games and I won’t have to drive five or six hours out of town… We need to make sure that our kids are staying here. We need our best and our brightest staying here to be our future leaders.”
District 24 candidate Greg Grzybowski agreed that one of the reasons he entered the race was his concern for the future of his family
“I’m a father and I have four girls — 16, 13, 12 and 9 years old,” Grzybowski told members of the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government. “I am standing here because I have no faith in the leadership of our nation, possibly even state.”
If Grzybowski believed in any of the other candidates running for District 24, he insists he would not have entered the race.
“I would vote for one of them,” Grzybowski said, adding that he didn’t feel comfortable supporting any of the other candidates. “My being here is not easy. It is not supposed to be. If we are going to change this country, we are going to have to start getting regular people who normally don’t run for office to run for office and hopefully win.”
Born in New York, Grzybowski went on to attend James Madison University in Virginia where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, history and military science. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the United States Army under the Reserve Officer Training Program in 1992.
As a result, he served for 23 years as both a military intelligence and acquisition officer retiring at the rank of lieutenant colonel.
With that background, Grzybowski insists he is the ideal candidate to increase economic development relating to cyber security and communication technology.
“We need to get our priorities straight,” Grzybowski told members of the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government. “You need to hire some new people. You need to vote for some new people.”
Over in Georgia’s District 23 race, incumbent Sen. Jesse Stone is facing a Republican challenger in Sylvania, Ga., resident Stephen Hammond.
Stone, who was born in Augusta but raised in Waynesboro, said that he is deeply connected to the people in his district.
“District 23 covers most of the Central Savannah River Area but Richmond County is special to me and my family. I was born here at St. Joseph Hospital. My family has deep roots here,” Stone said. “I’m not a politician. I’m a citizen legislator.”
During Hammond’s campaign, his main platform has been to reform the tax code by eliminating the state income tax in favor of a fair tax and his desire to pass the proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Meanwhile, Stone emphasizes his experience, both at the local and state levels.
Stone, who is an attorney, was elected mayor of Waynesboro in 2003.
During his time as mayor, Stone said he cut taxes and spending, improved infrastructure and brought new industry to the city.
Since 2010, he has served as senator of District 23 and currently chairs the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. In addition, he serves on the education, appropriations, banking and ethics committees.
In particular, Stone said education is extremely important to him because it is the key to Georgia’s future success.
“I strive to keep education growing,” Stone said. “Education is our most powerful economic development tool. I’ve done everything I can to strengthen the hand of the teachers and educators, to eliminate the unnecessary tests and to give more options to our students.”
It is vitally important that Georgians gets “more bang for our buck” when it comes to education, Stone said.
“We spend over half of our budget at the state level on education,” Stone recently said during a political forum. “We’ve got to do better. I want to keep working for you. Georgia is a great place to live, work and raise a family. We have to keep that climate going.”
In the House
In the race for House District 123, which is currently held by retiring Rep. Barbara Sims, local attorney Wright McLeod, Dr. Mark Newton and nurse Lori Greenhill are the three Republicans vying for the seat.
As a native of Augusta, McLeod graduated from Westside High School and earned an appointment to the United States Naval Academy.
Commissioned an Ensign in 1982, he earned his wings of gold as a Naval Flight Officer and flew the F-14 Tomcat on multiple combat deployments, including 54 missions in Operation Desert Storm.
Over the years, McLeod received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Naval Academy, a master’s in national security studies from Georgetown University and a law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law.
By 2000, Wright and his family returned to Augusta and opened his real estate law firm and homeowner association management company.
As far as the May 24 election, McLeod feels confident that he will prevail and be this district’s next representative. He is particularly honored that state Rep. Barbara Sims has endorsed him to take over her seat.
“Barbara has left, along with Sen. Bill Jackson, some big shoes to fill,” he said. “The Augusta metro area is probably at its lowest point in decades as far as political clout in Atlanta. As the second largest metropolitan area in the state, our political clout currently is not befitting the size of the city.”
McLeod insists he is the candidate that can provide the necessary leadership in Atlanta.
But Dr. Mark Newton believe he has a combination of skills and professional leadership that is a perfect fit to represent Augusta in Georgia’s Gold Dome.
Not only is he an emergency room doctor, but Newton is an Army veteran, a local business owner, a proud member of the National Rifle Association and a father of four children.
Following his service in the Army Medical Corps and further training at the Medical College of Georgia, Newton became the chairman and medical director of the emergency department at Doctors Hospital in Augusta.
He has served in that capacity for the past 17 years.
Newton is also the founder and CEO of MedNow Urgent Care centers, which has three locations in Richmond and Columbia counties.
“Someone needs to vigorously represent us in the Georgia Statehouse,” Newton said. “We need somebody who will be able to go there and build some relationships quickly. You have to bring something new to the table which helps cut through the clutter of the 179 other passionate representatives who care just as much about their area of the state.”
Local businesswoman and registered nurse Lori Greenhill believes one of her greatest strengths as a candidate in the House District 123 race is the fact that she is “an average person” who can relate to many of the concerns facing those living in the district.
“As a registered nurse, I feel like I have been advocating for people all of my life,” Greenhill said. “I think people need somebody who is a good listener and someone who is true to the people’s hearts and will take what they want back to Atlanta and vote accordingly.”
Over in the House District 124 race, long-time incumbent Rep. Henry “Wayne” Howard is facing competition from retired Army combat veteran Gregory Hill.
Hill also happens to be the former husband of Monique Walker, the daughter of former state Sen. Charles Walker.
But Howard insists he deserves to be re-elected because he has served District 124 well for the past 10 years.
“We came through some tough times in 2010, 2011 and 2012. And we worked through those tough periods and tough times,” Howard said. “We are now in a rebound period and a lot of good things are happening. Jobs are being created right here in Augusta. We keep hearing about Cyber Command. There were 1,700 jobs that have been created. A lot of that comes from the work we had done in Atlanta by creating a climate that will attract industry here.”
Since being elected to the office about a decade ago, Howard said he now serves on the several important committees in the state including the appropriations, education, health and human services and juvenile justice committees.
“With all of the work that we have already put into play and more hard work and time, we can get it done,” Howard said. “We are ready to get started and move in a positive direction.”
But Hill insists it is time for a change.
“I am a retired Army officer with three tours of combat, 25 years of military service and I have proudly served our country,” Hill recently stated at a political forum. “As a native Augustan who grew up in the inner city, now is the time for me to work for you.”
Hills says he is the ideal candidate to be the next state representative for the Georgia House District 124.
“As a policy maker for the Department of Defense, I wrote policies that impacted our men and women of these United State of America at the federal and international levels,” Hill said. “That has fully prepared me to write policy that affects you and the state and that will benefit you as well.”
Hill also believes he is the best candidate to bring both Democrats and Republicans together to improve Georgia.
“I can work across the aisle, so that we can start preparing for the growth that we have not had in the inner city of Augusta and south Augusta in well over 20 years,” he said. “Now is the time for Gregory Hill so that I can work to minimize the burden on taxpayers so that we can have a little something extra in your pockets. That is why I’m running. I’m not running for office, I’m running for you.”
Finally, in House District 125, incumbent Rep. Ernie Smith has opposition from retired Democratic postal employee Sheila Clark Nelson.
Late last year, the state’s ethics commission, formally known as the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, found probable cause that Smith had violated various state laws in his handling of campaign cash.
Basically a commission investigation found Smith committed 88 violations of campaign finance laws. Specifically, Smith allegedly failed to disclose property he owned on personal financial disclosure reports and failed to report $7,503 in campaign contributions and $25,297 in campaign expenditures since December 2010.
However, Smith has denied any wrongdoings.
“At no time has there ever been a misappropriation of campaign funds,” Smith reportedly told the ethics commission. “I’ve never spent one nickel for my personal use.”
But during her speech to members of the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government, candidate Sheila Clark Nelson didn’t hesitate to remind voters of the accusations against Smith.
“I believe that I am the only candidate in this race that is not only qualified, but is the only honest and trustworthy candidate to help make Augusta proud and move us forward,” said Nelson, who worked at the U.S. Postal Service for more than 30 years. “I was born and raised here in Augusta and lived most of my life in this community. I love this community.”
However, Smith ignored her remarks and tried to stick to his campaign issues such as transforming Georgia’s education system with new, higher academic standards and bringing technology into the classroom.
He introduced a young woman who was an Air Force veteran turned welder. Smith said she went from a $20 an hour job to a $40 an hour career in welding.
“You wouldn’t know by looking at her, would you?” Smith joked, as he introduced the attractive, young woman. “She is also in line to be in a competition in June to represent this region as the best welder in the country.”
Smith also said there were great educational opportunities throughout this region that need support.
“Look at Heritage Academy,” Smith said. “Ninety-eight percent of the kids there are from the inner city, but they go there by scholarship.”
Such Christian education opportunities can greatly impact the future of Augusta, Smith said.
“It is a great day for Augusta,” Smith said. “I’m not going to say anything negative because these are good days.”
On the Bench
When voters head to the polls on May 24, they won’t only be choosing local politicians to lead the CSRA, but also judges to head our courtrooms.
In the race for the State Court judgeship being vacated by Judge John Flythe so that he can run for the Superior Court bench, there are three candidates running for the seat: Kellie Kenner McIntyre, Monique Walker and Robert “Bo” Hunter III.
Kellie Kenner McIntyre, who is the current Richmond County State Court solicitor general, is also the daughter-in-law of former Augusta Mayor Ed McIntyre.
Monique Walker, who is the current chief operating officer and general counsel for Global Personnel Solutions, also happens to be the daughter of former state Sen. Charles Walker.
And local attorney Robert “Bo” Hunter III, who served as the former solicitor general of Richmond County State Court for about eight years starting back in 1988, is probably best known as a sole practitioner in The Hunter Law Firm.
Hunter has been practicing law in Augusta since 1983 and he has some very prominent and well-respected community leaders supporting him.
For example, Dr. Paul Fischer, the founder of the Center For Primary Care, provided a testimonial for Hunter.
“When R.J. Reynolds Tobacco company came after my research files and threatened the privacy of our three-year-old research subjects, Bo successfully fought them all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court,” Fischer is quoted as saying on Hunter’s campaign website. “Bo is honest, fair, smart and wise… everything you would hope for in a judge.”
During his speech before the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government, an organization that he has been member of for 30 years, Hunter said he is proud of the cases that he handled over the past three decades in Augusta.
“I was trusted by Dr. Paul Fischer to represent children because the tobacco companies wanted the names of those children involved in his research so they could intimidate them,” Hunter. “As a result of that case, Dr. Fischer became the star witness for the attorney general of the United States who got the tobacco companies to agree not to advertise to children.”
Probate Court Judge Harry James also chose Hunter to represent him in a case before the Superior Court of Richmond County, Hunter said.
“We won and they appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Georgia where I was successful there, too,” Hunter said. “I have represented thousands of people in times of anxiety, in times of joy when they are buying a house, in times of sorrow when they are having a crisis in their family or somebody in their family is in trouble. I have been a prosecutor and I stood with these people when we were at trial and when we are sentencing. So I’m a candidate with experience and I am trusted by this community.”
McIntyre has more than 20 years of judicial experience starting in Fulton County. She was a victim’s advocate and social worker in Fulton County Superior Court until she moved back to Augusta in 2008.
“I was told to come back by our now senator, Harold Jones, who was my classmate at that time,” McIntyre recently said at a political forum, adding that she is advocate for alternative sentencing. “But I tell everybody, practicing law is what I do. It is not who I am.”
She explained that she was a 47-year-old wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend who is decisive and fair, but also compassionate when necessary.
“I tell everyone, if you or any of your loved ones have to come to court, I am the one that you want on that bench because I will be fair while ruling according to the law,” she said. “I know how to do that and I will bring compassion to that position. Because I do know everybody has a story and they need to be heard.”
Finally, Monique Walker told members of the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government that she is a native Augustan who graduated from the University of Georgia in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and she received her law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1997.
“I was born and raised here in Augusta,” Walker said, adding that she has handled both criminal and civil matters in public and private sectors for nearly two decades. “As your next State Court judge, I will be responsible for making sure that we have alternative sentencing that makes sense and allows people to have a second chance and not have these tiny misdemeanor cases follow them for the rest of their lives.”
In addition, Walker said she is excited by the fact that Augusta is moving from a private probation system to publicly run probation.
“That gives us transparency and accountability,” Walker said. “It also gives us an opportunity for our young people serving probation to have a meaningful opportunity to learn something while on probation.”
Walker also didn’t shy away from the fact that former Sen. Charles Walker is her father.
As many people in Augusta know, state Sen. Charles Walker was found guilty of 127 felony counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and filing false tax returns in 2005 and was eventually sentenced to almost a decade in federal prison.
Initially, Monique Walker also was indicted with her father on several criminal counts in 2005.
But all of the charges against her were dismissed after she pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of filing a false tax return and was forced to serve probation.
But Monique Walker was still disciplined by the State Bar of Georgia in 2007 because of the fact that she pleaded guilty in court to the misdemeanor charge.
When she pleaded guilty, Monique Walker told the court that she accepted a check which bore the notation “consulting fees” for $700 from her father’s company and did not report the money as income.
In 2007, the State Bar of Georgia ruled that Walker be given a 120-day suspension and a public reprimand.
“Earlier, I heard some conversation about Charles Walker and, yes, I am Charles Walker’s daughter. So let’s just get that straight,” Monique Walker proudly said. “But I heard somebody say, ‘God bless the child that’s got his own.’ And I like to think that I have my own. I’m excited about what lies ahead for Augusta. I’m excited about being your next state court judge. I’ll be fair. I’ll be firm. I’ll be focused.”
In the race for the Superior Court judgeship currently held by Judge Carl Brown, local attorney Chris Nicholson has challenged the long-time judge for his seat.
During the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government’s political forum, Brown told the audience that he is grateful for his 34 years on the bench because, after serving for so many years, he frequently receives “confirmation.”
One such incident happened a few Sundays ago, Brown said.
“Me and my bride of 45 years were eating lunch at a local fast food restaurant and this clean-cut young man walks over to my table,” Brown said. “He says to me, ‘I want to thank you for what you did for us.’ I looked at him and said, ‘What did I do for you?’”
The man told him the judge had given him 12 months in the detention center.
“I thought to myself, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m in for a bad day,’” Brown said, chuckling. “Then, he said, ‘Actually I spent six months in the local jail before I went to the detention center.’ And I thought, ‘I really am in for a bad day.’”
Brown asked the man why he was thanking him for sentencing him to the detention center.
“He said to me, ‘It helped me to control my temper. I had a really bad temper and that time out helped me to learn to control it.’ That was the confirmation,” Brown said. “Now, that young man can get along with his family, he can keep a job and he can be a productive citizen. That’s why I seek to serve.”
As far as Nicholson’s speech during the political forum, readers should read this week’s Insider in the Metro Spirit to fully understand his comments before members of the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government.
Finally, Richmond County State Court Judge John Flythe and local attorney Evita Paschall are competing for the Superior Court judgeship seat currently held by Judge Carlisle Overstreet, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election.
After law school, Flythe worked at the District Attorney’s office under the leadership of Danny Craig and eventually opened up his own practice where he focused on family law.
After serving as the Associate Judge of the Grovetown Municipal Court, Judge Flythe was appointed in 2010 as a State Court judge in Richmond County.
“Experience matters most,” Flythe said at a recent political forum. “These jobs are incredibly important and Superior Court judges have the everyday opportunity to impact people’s lives in a very meaningful way. When you are dealing with people’s children and you’re dealing with their money and you are dealing with their freedom, those things are the things that matter to them most. And I will tell you that experience matters most in selecting a judge.”
However, local attorney Evita Paschall insists she also has the experience necessary to become a Superior Court judge.
Throughout her 40 years of practicing law, Paschall said she has also served as an assistant solicitor of state court, a solicitor of magistrate court and a municipal court judge.
“So I have judicial experience,” Paschall said. “I even have a robe. All you need to do is elect me because I’m prepared.”
Over in local law enforcement, long-time Richmond County Marshal Steve Smith is facing challenger Ramone Lamkin, who is currently the head of the Traffic Safety Division of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
Lamkin believes the Marshal’s office needs to be more connected to the community.
“A lot of people don’t know what the marshal’s office even does and they don’t know who the marshal is,” he said. “That’s sad to say, but it is true. People know who the coroner is, but they don’t know who the marshal is.”
But Smith, who has severed as marshal in Richmond County for 28 years and has been in local law enforcement for almost 40 years, is standing by his record of service to the community.
“This position has been a big part of my life,” Smith said. “Next to my faith and my family, it has been 28 years of my life and I love my job.”
Driving Augusta’s Future
There is no doubt that this year’s election could drastically change the current political landscape in Augusta.
In Richmond County, there are three hotly contested races for Augusta Commission seats.
In District 1, Commissioner Bill Fennoy is facing competition from two challengers: community activist Denice Traina and political newcomer Michael Thurman.
Some Augustans might recall that Traina has run for the District 1 seat before and lost.
While she has served on both the Richmond County Planning Commission and the Transit Advisory Panel, she is probably best known as the highly enthusiastic “certified beekeeper” who has been a resident of the Harrisburg neighborhood for more than 20 years.
Although Thurman is new to politics, he’s a local businessman from Augusta that has invested throughout the city.
He is the president of McGillicuddy Rental Properties in Augusta and currently owns more than 100 properties in central Augusta and the Summerville area.
“I bought my first house in Apple Valley when I was 18 years old when all of my friends were doing other things,” Thurman said. “It was a repossessed house that needed a lot of work. I didn’t have any money, but I had the desire to make something of myself to be able to provide for my family. So I worked very hard and had very long hours.”
Thurman said he wants to bring that kind of commitment and positive attitude to the Augusta Commission.
“The attitudes of former commissioners and wasteful spending, all of that needs to stop,” Thurman said. “We need transparency. We need to make sure that we know where the money is going and that it is going to places it needs to go. We need to focus on getting people moving in and not moving out of Richmond County.”
But Fennoy said he is proud of his service on the Augusta Commission, including the approval of phase seven of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes and the storm water fees.
“South Augusta is asking for economic development, but it is very difficult to build a hotel or a decent restaurant on a septic tank,” Fennoy said. “The storm water fees will be used for infrastructure and maintenance.”
Over in District 5, there are two candidates running to replace Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett: Andrew Jefferson and Kelby Walker.
Andrew Jefferson is a former Richmond County school board member who recently retired from Augusta Technical College after more than 30 years in education.
Jefferson, who was the director of continuing education at Augusta Tech, had worked at the college since 1991.
“I’m an advocate for small business people,” Jefferson said at a recent political forum. “If elected, I promise to serve, not to be served. Richmond County is in need of economic growth, especially in south Richmond County. We have businesses closing and we need new businesses. So if elected, I will work hard to help bring new businesses to the district.”
Walker also wants to bring a new vision to south Augusta.
“We will bring south Augusta back to life,” Walker said. “We just lost two vibrant grocery stores. Everybody doesn’t go to Walmart. If elected, we will be proactive, we will be aggressive and… Walker will work for you.”
Finally, the highly outspoken and controversial incumbent Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams is also facing opposition.
Ronnie Battle, who served almost 25 years in the U.S. Air Force before retiring to the Augusta area in 1998, is running for the District 9 seat.
While Williams is a politician who has been called everything from a loose cannon to a “maniacal micro-manager,” he eagerly embraces the negative attention.
Ever since he was first elected to the Augusta Commission back in 1999, Williams’ main mission has been to stir things up in the Marble Palace.
“I think I’m the longest serving commissioner on the commission at this time,” Williams said. “I made one promise in 1999 when I first ran for office. I said that I may not be able to change anything, but I will keep you informed. I will at least let you know what is going on.”
Williams believes he has kept that promise to voters.
“I have been criticized probably more than any elected official who has ever lived in the city of Augusta. That’s a lot,” Williams said. “I’m not downtown to make friends. I’m downtown to help folks and really move Augusta forward.”
While these are the majority of races that voters will find on their ballots next Tuesday, it’s far from all of the races. That’s why the May 24 election is so tremendously important for this entire area. Educate yourself on the candidates, head to the polls and vote. To read any of the >Metro Spirit’s previous articles on the local races, visit metrospirit.com.