Consider Diane Ford the Susan Lucci of the Columbia County Board of Commissioners.
Like the soap opera star who spent years being nominated for an Emmy and before receiving the distinction in 1999, Ford says she felt some commonalities after finally being voted in as vice-chairwoman of the county board.
Earlier this month, the five-member board unanimously selected Ford into the position for the year.
Minutes later, they changed out her name plate to a gender-neutral "Vice Chair" job plate.
Ford says she doesn't know yet whether she'll keep the title that way or use the title "chairwoman," but she says she was happy to get the endorsement from her fellow commissioners.
"I'm honored to be in this position," she said. "Being here, you always would like to be in a leadership position because of you seniority."
First elected to the board in 1992, Ford is currently the longest-serving member of the board after winning re-election bids in 1996 and 2000.
This year likely will be her last run at retaining her District 3 seat for another four years, Ford said.
"I'm going to run this one last time because I do want to see the library completed," she said. "That's something that's very important to me - and the amphitheater. I think that'll be enough time, then I think it'll be time to step down and let somebody else have their turn at this."
Ford, who was raised in Richmond County and moved to Columbia County in 1986 with her husband, Mike, did not initially consider a foray into local government.
After becoming involved in the schools of her two children and neighborhood association at Windmill Plantation, she soon found herself drawn in.
"I got involved in politics because when we moved into Windmill, we had some issues out there, and we came and talked to the Board of Commissioners," she said. "At that time, I didn't feel that we had an ear here, we didn't have anybody listening to our needs and concerns."
Someone jokingly said to Ford that if she thought she could do better, she should run for office. She jokingly fired back that she might do it.
Commissioner Tom Mercer, who served in the vice-chairman position last year, called Ford's appointment overdue. He said he pushed for her selection this year after she supported him in 2003.
Technically, Ford's new responsibility is to assist Ron Cross, the countywide-elected chairman, and run meetings when he is absent. But she will also be taking on more figurehead responsibilities, making appearances with Cross at business ribbon-cuttings, events around the county and joint meetings with other elected officials such as school board members and city leaders.
Though Ford said she'll soon learn if there are more duties along with the post, she said it did not change her voting role on the board of commissioners.
"We all have just one vote," she said.
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