California Gov. Gray Davis soon will join the ranks of the unemployed after losing the most publicized recall election in U.S. history earlier this month.
But California isn't the only place where an elected official can be booted out of office. Eighteen states, including Georgia, allow recall elections.
In 1986, Grovetown was in the same chaotic situation as California. Grovetown residents made headlines by ejecting three of its city councilmen in two recalls.
Former Councilmen Bob Deckert, Jack Herkel and Bob Hunsucker were ousted from office that year in the wake of public outcry stemming from the police chief losing his job.
At the time, many city officials, including the police chief, were re-appointed on an annual basis.
This copy of The News-Times from January 1986
documents the fight Grovetown residents waged to keep their police chief and vote out three city councilmen.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
At a city council meeting Jan. 13, 1986, then-Councilman James Reese made a motion that the council renew the contract of Grovetown Police Chief Val Barnett. Deckert, Herkel and Hunsucker refused to second the motion, and it died. Barnett lost his job, and the city went into a political tailspin.
"We failed to appoint the police chief for another term, and some of the people got upset about it," Herkel said during a interview last week from his McDuffie County home.
Grovetown real-estate broker Larry Jenkins, with several citizens, showed up to the next council meeting, demanding that Barnett be rehired.
Upset with the lack of action on the part of city council, Jenkins co-founded and became the spokesman for a Grovetown-based group called Citizens for Better Government.
Jenkins and his group announced their intentions at a council meeting to recall Deckert and Herkel. Hunsucker had started a new term of office a month earlier, and since state law prohibited the recall of an elected official in the first 180 days of a new term, the group would have to wait before going after him.
"I drove to Atlanta to talk to the secretary of state because I wasn't given a real reason for the recall," Herkel said. "We were informed that they could take you out of office if they didn't like the way they combed your hair. They didn't have to give a reason."
Under state law, all it takes to start the recall process is a petition signed by 100 registered voters or 10 percent of the voters from the district's previous election - whichever is smaller.
Citizens for Better Government canvassed the Grovetown area to get the necessary signatures and turned them in to the city clerk's office in March.
Although they didn't have to, the group listed five reasons for calling a recall: "lack of responsibility and concern for the best interests of the city, disregard of voters desires, refusal to rehire Barnett as police chief without sufficient cause, causing disharmony in the community and impeding further progress in Grovetown due to decisions based on political reason other than facts."
The recall was May 21, and 53 percent of Grovetown's 955 voters turned out. Deckert and Herkel lost by votes of 316-117 and 311-170 respectively.
Deckert ran for his former council seat in a special election July 2 and lost again. That time, 57 percent of voters went to the polls to elect George Williams and Chelsey Stephens into the vacated spots.
With a friendlier council behind him, Barnett was rehired as chief of police in August. Also that month, Citizens for Better Government presented a petition to recall Hunsucker and an election was set for Sept. 24.
Hunsucker lost with 276 votes cast against him.
After the election, Hunsucker was quoted in The News-Times as saying, "Larry Jenkins and (then) Mayor (Leon) Davidson have split the town open. Leon Davidson wants 'yes' men. I don't say 'yes' to anyone unless I know what it's all about."
William E. Daughtry, father of current council member David Daughtry, replaced Hunsucker in a November election. It was the sixth election of the year in Grovetown.
"We were a laughingstock," Grovetown's current Mayor Dennis Trudeau said about the era. "At that time, we all got the paper to see what comedy article would be in there that day. They ridiculed us pretty bad. We were known all over the state as the recall city."
The tumultuous year led to Grovetown policy changes to try and avoid similar incidents in the future.
"Back then, the chief of police was a political toy," David Daughtry said. "My first goal when I got onto city council was to rewrite our charter, so we didn't appoint our chief of police every January. I finally got that done, but it took me seven years. The chief is more like an employee now."
Herkel wouldn't say why he choose to let Barnett go. Both Hunsucker and Jenkins refused to comment for this article, and attempts to reach Deckert were unsuccessful.
"It's government," Herkel said. "The people should have their way. They disagreed with what we did. We did it for a reason. Apparently, they disagreed."
Events in 1986 that led to Grovetown's recall election:
Jan. 13: Grovetown City Councilmen Bob Deckert, Jack Herkel and Bob Hunsucker refuse to second a motion to renew the contract of Grovetown Police Chief Val Barnett. The motion dies, and Barnett is let go.
Feb. 24: Citizens for Better Government, led by Larry Jenkins, announce their intentions at a city council meeting to recall Deckert and Herkel.
March: Citizens for Better Government turn in petitions to the Grovetown City Clerk's office to recall Deckert and Herkel.
May 21: The recall election is held, and Deckert and Herkel are defeated.
July 2: A special election is held to fill the city council's open seats. George Williams and Chelsey Stephens win.
August: Barnett is rehired as chief of police. A petition to recall Hunsucker is turned into the clerk's office.
Sept. 1: Barnett officially returns to the police chief position.
Sept. 24: Hunsucker is voted out of office in a recall election.
Nov. 12: William E. Daughtry is elected to replace Hunsucker.
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