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Losses remind us of what we still have

Posted: March 14, 2012 - 12:03am  |  Updated: March 14, 2012 - 9:19am

Did you realize that during his next term in office, Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle will celebrate 20 years as our county’s top cop?

Since his special election to the post back in 1995, Whittle has outlasted pretty much every other head law enforcement officer in our area. In a county as safe as ours, we tend to forget that peace and tranquility are no accident.

But we’re suddenly reminded when things happen as they did in a 24-hour span last week.

On Friday, Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength announced his retirement after 11 years in office. And on Saturday, Columbia County schools Public Safety Chief Buddy Hendry lost his battle with lung cancer.

Newcomers to our community certainly could be forgiven for not knowing the tremendous impact Strength’s tenure, and that of his predecessor and mentor, Charlie Webster, had on Augusta. The newly arrived wouldn’t know that pre-consolidation Richmond County had sent two sheriffs to prison, and that county officials responded to the ensuing turmoil by setting up a county police department under their control.

It was a short-lived experiment, returning to normalcy when Webster took over and the police department was eliminated. Later, under consolidation when the often scandal-plagued Augusta Police Department was merged with the sheriff’s office, Webster assumed full authority.

Since then, the helm has steadied so much that the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office no longer is an issue of concern. Instead, it’s a model of organization that the rest of the county would do well to emulate. For the past 11 years, and with repeated budgetary challenges, that’s been the contribution of Ronnie Strength - as good a man to ever wear a badge as has ever lived.

Likewise, the steady hand of a quiet and unassuming man has been at the helm of the Columbia County Schools Public Safety Department since Buddy Hendry took the job in 2000. As Donnie Fetter’s story today on Hendry points out, Hendry came into the top job just after the horrors of Columbine and the heightened fears for school security.

Since then, there never has been a moment when we didn’t rightly assume that our schools were, as a whole, safe places for our children. Sure, there have been occasional scares; no one can stop that. But Hendry was always behind the scenes with his officers to keep a keen eye out for trouble.

The schools aren’t safe just by happenstance, yet the safer they are, the easier it is to take that security for granted. We shouldn’t.

Likewise, we shouldn’t take for granted the quiet, peaceful, law-abiding community we live in. With the departure of two fellow law enforcement professionals, there’s no better time to thank Sheriff Clay Whittle and every one of his deputies for their service.

We’ll certainly miss them when they’re gone, too.

 

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com. Follow at twitter.com/
barrypaschal.)

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Comments (18)

Riverman1

The Webster Reference is Hilarious

Well, looking up facts in my Webster's Dictionary, I find him a complete example of favoritism to the boys. Does anyone with any political knowledge and understanding of the boys on the other side of the tracks in the area doubt that?

Barry Paschal

Charlie Webster

What are you suggesting? Charlie Webster was a transitional figure. It was only someone with his political backing and influence who could unify law enforcement in Augusta/Richmond County, and move away from the corruption that plagued the former administrations. He paved the way for Strength, who in turn hands off a new set of challenges to his successor.

Riverman1

A Transitional Figure

So we can accept wrongdoing by a sheriff if it's not quite as bad as the previous ones? How in the world did Otis Hensley just DO IT right following similar fools?

Barry Paschal

Specify

What "wrongdoing"? Are you alleging criminal activity?

Riverman1

Barry, All I Know Is

Don't play silly games with me. You know as well as I do about Charles Webster.

Riverman1

Let me ask you

So you are saying Charlie Webster was not involved with wrong doing when he was Sheriff? Interpret that any way you want? Let's see who is being honest here.

Barry Paschal

I don't play games

If you have an allegation to make, then make it.

Riverman1

Barry, you know....

You know very well what can be said in public and what can't be. You also know very well about Webster. So stop playing dishonest games with me. There's enough dishonesty from the politicians.

Barry Paschal

Oh. I see.

Thanks for the confirmation. You've got nothing.

Riverman1

Ha

If you really believe the history of Charlie Webster as Sheriff is stellar, you are spending far too much time figuring out the planting times for the Home and Garden Report, CCNT. The thing is you KNOW the truth. You also know very well the libel laws, yet, you say, "You've got nothing." Dishonesty galore.

Barry Paschal

Nice.

Nice. You refer to "what can be said in public and what can't," yet seem to be trying to bait me into making some kind of comment. Either put up or shut up. You. Have. Nothing.

Riverman1

Me Baiting You?

Ha, again. You're the one attacking my comments and trying to get me to commit libel. But it would be an interesting trial. With this discussion, I am very confident and assurred that anyone who knows anything about Richmond Cty politics and history knows the "legacy" of Charlie Webster and the boys. You find ANYONE to agree with you about Webster and I'd be surprised. In this one debate of our many, there's no doubt where the truth is...and you know it. Smile.

Barry Paschal

Yes, I know the truth

I know the truth, and it's that you don't have a clue what you're talking about but are trying to be provocative anyway. Good luck with that.

Riverman1

Okay, Let's End It On This

You think Charlie Webster was a great Sheriff. Fair enough? I don't and I KNOW most observers agree with me. The end.

Barry Paschal

Aw, you took another poll.

I'm glad everyone in your mirror agrees with you.

Riverman1

Only Polls in the CCNT...

...are on the best times to plant your flowers. If you don't start acting nice I'm going to start standing in front of that storefront window office you have in the strip mall and breathing on the window and writing Home and Garden Center on it.

Barry Paschal

Grow up

Grow up. If you have useful commentary, contribute.

Riverman1

Go Write Another Erroneous Editorial

Go write another petty and false editorial about the CAVE folks. But far as you telling me what to do...Nope...doesn't work that way.

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