He's a popular incumbent sheriff in a growing, safe east Georgia county, being challenged by an aggressive, younger candidate who's hoping to take over the county's top law enforcement post.
Nope, it's not Sheriff Clay Whittle in Columbia County, who is being chased by Lewis Blanchard.
It's John Bentley, the long-time sheriff of Lincoln County, facing a strong challenge from Gerald Lawson.
Fresh from service in Iraq, retired Lt. Col. Lawson has 28 years' experience in local and federal law enforcement, and before leaving the Army was the director of public safety at Fort Gordon.
In a small community like Lincolnton, it's sometimes the personal connections that count more than the professional. So it helps Lawson that he is the son of a Lincolnton minister and husband of a Lincoln County Elementary School teacher.
Lincoln County is growing, with much of its population coming from Columbia County as our former residents are attracted by the still-unspoiled, wide-open spaces and lakefront property. Lawson's challenge will be to attract those newcomers and combine them in a coalition with disaffected old-timers if he's to knock off Bentley, who's worn Lincoln County's badge for more than two decades.
Prayers for MurphyIf there's a poster-child for long-time incumbents getting knocked off by newcomers, it would have to be Tom Murphy, former speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives. Murphy was defeated for re-election in 2002, after having served since 1960 in the House.
Murphy suffered a stroke Saturday after an operation to install a pacemaker; he then had another stroke while being treated in an Atlanta hospital.Murphy is 79, and has had a colorful life. Politically we're on different planets, but it's awful to hear that this tough, outspoken politician has been knocked down by a debilitating "brain attack.
"There are two, right?In better shape after a recent stay in the hospital is Capt. Rick Whitaker of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. The doctors recently found a suspicious spot on Whitaker's kidney. It was cancer. Fortunately, the surgery to remove the organ seems to have gotten it all, and Whitaker is back at work.
That's good news. Among other things, Whitaker has been a volunteer during the Memorial Day and Christmas celebrations in Evans. He sets up traffic control and parking for the events, but he also uses his brain in planning sessions and his brawn for setting up and cleaning up afterward. At least if there's less of him now, Columbia County will still benefit from the parts that are left!
Muns gets PSC post
Congratulations to Lee Muns, the Board of Education member appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue to Georgia's Professional Standards Commission.
The agency is responsible for certification of teachers. It's a safe bet that the sound you heard last week was jaws hitting the floor at Columbia County's central office when the appointment was announced. Muns is in the thick of the battle over the hiring of a new principal for Evans Middle School, and has thrown his weight behind interim principal Vanessa Watkins.
Naturally, folks in the central office think Muns is micromanaging, a charge he's weathered before. Now that Muns is one of the people in the state with oversight of certification - including that of much of the central office staff - any criticism of him from those staffers will likely be a little more muted.
(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.