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Saturday's tree-lighting was a great success

Posted: December 7, 2011 - 12:00am  |  Updated: December 14, 2011 - 2:48pm

At least Georgia was still leading when I had to break away from the television Saturday to get ready to participate in Columbia County’s tree-lighting ceremony. Otherwise I would have been an even worse nervous wreck.

We were a little worried about how things would go this year. Our emcee, WJBF-TV’s Jennie Montgomery, wasn’t with us for the first time in 10 years because she was off on a cruise. (It was a “theme” cruise featuring Gino Vinalli, she said. I didn’t know who that was until I looked it up; big hair, disco clothes, ’70s soft pop-rock. I hope she had fun.)

Not to fear: Her stand-in, WJBF forecaster Jenna Lee Thomas, did an outstanding job. And then her boyfriend, Eric Wright – who accompanied her to the tree-lighting – surprised her by showing up on the set the next night while she was doing the weather, popped out a Windsor Jewelers green box and proposed to her on the air. So I guess she had a pretty good weekend.

Wright, by the way, is an emergency room physician at UNC-Chapel Hill, and recently was hired to come to University Hospital’s ER next year.

The tree-lighting itself was phenomenal, and for the first time Columbia County has a Christmas tree big enough, and bright enough, and in a visible enough location, to really attract attention. When that thing lit up Saturday, I thought planes were going to be diverted; it really glows.

Many thanks to all those who helped get the program going, and moving it all to Evans Towne Center Park. We had a few glitches, mostly related to the switch to a new venue, but overall it went well.

At least it went better than the Georgia game.

On a more serious note, we’re now up to four declared Republican candidates for Georgia’s newly drawn 12th congressional district.

Mableton attorney Maria Sheffield, who last appeared on ballots as one of the candidates last year for state insurance commissioner, says she’ll move to Laurens County for the run. Residency in congressional districts isn’t a requirement, but voters aren’t likely to elect one who isn’t a resident.

That’s also why Democratic Rep. John Barrow is expected to move into the district. He’s portrayed as the incumbent, but technically isn’t because he’s not a resident.

To get to Barrow, who isn’t likely to have opposition in the Democratic primary, Sheffield will have to contend with two Columbia County residents – Lee Anderson and Wright McCleod – and Augusta resident (but Columbia County native) Rick Allen, the three previously declared Republican candidates.

It can’t be to anyone’s surprise that every single one of the GOP hopefuls portrays himself (or herself) as a “Ronald Reagan conservative.” I’m afraid far too few people – likely, all of these candidates included – have the slightest clue what that even means. But consultants tell them they’re supposed to say it, so get ready to hear it. A lot.

Hopefully, once the season to compare and contrast them fleshes out, we’ll get to hear more about their views and decide for ourselves.


(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/

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Comments (3)

Little Lamb

No Clue

You are absolutely right about people today not knowing what Ronald Reagan stood for. Why, even Barak Obama tries to channel Ronald Reagan in his Republican-bashing rants.

Barry Paschal

Wright McCleod spokesperson's comment

A spokesperson for Wright McCleod emailed that she's not aware he's said he is a "Reagan conservative," just that he's a "constitutional conservative." I joked that she should give him time; it'll come.


Wright's residence

FYI, Wright is a Richmond County resident. He bought the house where he grew up from his parents. One of his offices is in Columbia County.