Ed Presnell says theyre putting the cart before the horse.
Only recently able to scratch the interim from his title, the Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce president got a bumpy welcome when news anticlimactically leaked out that members of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce were filing papers to incorporate.
Presnell knows he was taking over the regional chamber at a time when the three-county coalition is shaky. Threatened by a weak economy, over-dependence on government jobs and disunity among member counties, the Chamber had already been struggling when Jim West resigned and Presnell got the interim presidency.
There was supposed to be a national search for Wests successor, but it appears the Chamber leadership wised up and gave Presnell the post as quickly as possible. With all the uncertainty facing the organization, its top job didnt need to be in the hands of a temp.
Some of the situation improved since Presnell became permanent - notably, last week the Augusta Commission finally quit stonewalling and passed along the money it had budgeted for the Chamber.
What hasnt improved has been the regions business climate. Burke County is losing 550 jobs with Quikset closing shop, and unemployment in Augusta is still high. Columbia County is probably doing the best of the three: even without any new industries coming to town, commercial growth is booming. Thats telling many of Columbia Countys leaders that our fortunes dont need to be tied to Augustas. Hence, the push for incorporation of the Columbia County Chamber as a separate entity.
For Presnell, thats putting the cart in front of the horse. He wanted time to put his stamp on the Metro Chamber and try to save the traditional regional approach. The timing of Columbia Countys perceived changes makes that job more difficult.
The incorporation move also sends a not-so-subtle signal: Rather than wait to see what happens downtown, Columbia County can - and should - forge its own destiny. If that means the regional approach is stronger when all counties really become equal partners, great. If it means walking away and letting the other guys follow our success, fine.
Either way, its the rest of the coalition that has the most to lose - and no-longer-honeymooning Presnell who has the challenge of holding it all together.
A new human low
Anyone seeking an answer to the question, How low can you go? should ask the scumbag who stole the contents of Kelly Hawkinberrys purse.
Raymond Hawkinberry was driving his family - including Mrs. Hawkinberry, 10-year-old son Nicholas and 8-year-old Andrew - to see the boys big brother, 18-year-old Michael, play for the Harlem High Bulldogs.
Their car slid off the wet highway in Warren County and into oncoming traffic, and Andrew was killed. Ray-mond, Kelly and Nicholas all were injured.
It was an awful tragedy, and on Friday the 13th, too. But adding insult to the injuries, someone at the crash scene stole everything from Mrs. Hawkinberrys purse. Mr. Hawkinberry had cashed his paycheck, and Mrs. Hawkinberry had the money. The cash vanished after the crash, though she did get back her empty purse.
Thou shalt not steal. What part of that is so hard to understand? Whoever made off with that money has undoubtedly spent every dime of it by now - and will have an eternity of torment to wish he could pay it back.
God bless the Hawkinberrys, and God rest the soul of little Andrew.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal@ newstimesonline.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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