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People making history for Columbia County

Posted: December 5, 2012 - 1:03am

Columbia County has made history in recent weeks, with plenty more to come.

• Much has been made lately of the revamped Convention and Visitors Bureau, which has a new board and the tag-team of Director Randy DuTeau and Assistant Director Shelly Blackburn.

Until a few years ago, Columbia County subordinated most of its external marketing to Augusta’s CVB. At one time, that made sense; our county’s venues weren’t as developed, and Augusta had a giant annual money-maker in the Masters Golf Tournament that gave it considerable inertia.

But then Columbia County continued not only to grow in population, but in its own offerings for visitors – from fishing tournament facilities and disc golf at Wildwood Park, to cross country and soccer at Blanchard Woods and Patriots Park, and to more hotels and restaurants providing places for visitors to stay and eat.

Those guests pumped more money into the county’s hotel/motel tax coffers – enough that the county largely could declare independence and still have plenty of money left to help fund county events that attract even more visitors.

The time, then, is perfect to rev up the CVB mission, and DuTeau and Blackburn are just the folks to do it. Expect big things as the CVB mission gets rolling to promote Columbia County.

• It’s not a draw for visitors (other than sports teams), but Columbia County’s school system is widely recognized as the main attraction for new residents. For that reason, the choice of professionals and elected officials to guide that system are exceptionally important.

The elected school board of Columbia County is expected soon to formally approve the promotion of Sandra Carraway as the next superintendent of Columbia County schools, taking over for her current boss, Charles Nagle, upon his June retirement.

Her elevation from deputy to superintendent mirrors the tried-and-true method of private enterprise: Brought up through the system, with continued success inviting greater challenges, Carraway has for the past five years been groomed for the top post. She’s knowledgeable, she’s prepared, and she’s already planning for the continued advancement of students.

It won’t be easy. But Carraway certainly seems up to the task, and the board members are making a good choice.

• Finally, while making history, Columbia County’s historical memory also took a hard lick last week with the death of Gerald Smith.

The historian, who penned a book chronicling the founding of the county, passed away Nov. 26. He was kind and generous with his time and expertise, and around here we’ll long remember how earlier this year he indulged News-Times photographer Jim Blaylock and staff writer Valerie Rowell. The three took a trip to Winfield to view the marker for William Few, a founder of Columbia County, and Smith dressed up in Revolutionary era garb for the occasion.

It was just a tiny example of the writer, historian, minister and educator going above and beyond. He’ll be sorely missed.

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