It probably seems early to be thinking about the 2004 elections.
But one thing we know already: When Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle signs up for re-election next year, hell probably have an opponent.
Lewis Blanchard earlier this month filed whats commonly called an intent card with the Board of Elections office. The form allows him to begin soliciting funds for a political run.
The card notes the office Blanchard intends to seek (sheriff), and gives his party affiliation (Republican).
What the card doesnt do is give any reasons why a financially secure political newcomer would challenge one of the countys more popular public officials in a race that few observers would give him a snowballs chance of winning.
And it doesnt say why Blanchard wants the job in the first place.
Just a week after filling out that card, Blanchard sat in a Washington Road restaurant, eating a hamburger and giving a few of those reasons. Its a long-time dream to be sheriff, he says; and he contends there are changes needed in the countys law enforcement that can only come by replacing the man at the top.
Blanchard himself is at the top of his own game in many respects. He runs a sports-marketing company, arranging big-event trips for major corporate clients who come to the Masters or travel to Pebble Beach or the Final Four. He employs scores of locals - many of them current and former Columbia County educators, including retired Lakeside High School principal Julius McAnally.
Blanchard got his school connections when he worked as Lakesidess public safety officer several years ago. He also worked on Beach Patrol at Hilton Head Island, and was a cadet with the Columbia County Sheriffs Office volunteer reserves.
Blanchard is counting on those school connections to provide a lot of the funding for his campaign for sheriff. Now that hes filled out an intent card, he can find out if those connections translate into cash - and then see next year if that support translates into votes.
Zell hushes Dawgs
One man who isnt running for office next year is U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga. The former professor and Georgia governor is heading back to the halls of academia.
Zell will no doubt impart plenty of wisdom to his history students. But lately hes been delivering common sense to those embroiled in the ridiculous controversy over Vince Dooley at the University of Georgia.
Let me be clear: I dont much care for Michael Adams, the president of my alma mater. He strikes me as an arrogant elitist. But Dooleys departure from UGA is long overdue.
Nothing against Dooley; I was there for the national championship season, and like many others revered him as the patron saint of Georgia football after he stepped down as head coach and remained as athletic director.
Dooley has rarely seemed chummy with Adams, but it seems like Dooley went out of his way to cause trouble by asking Adams for a contract extension he knew he wouldnt get. Since then, Bulldog fans - including well-known local attorney Wyck Knox - have been howling for Adams head.
In a message released last week, Zell expresses respect for Adams, Dooley and Knox, and said, Family fights are always the worse kind, and this one has gone on far too long. It should be stopped - now.
In a reference to Georgia supporters hauling anti-Adams petitions to the Georgia Board of Regents, Zell added, Park the wheelbarrow and shut down the web sites and lets move on.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.