Call him The One that Got Away.
As qualifying for Columbia County school board races drew to a close on July 2, the crop of candidates was starting to look thin as Lee Muns dropped out. Then the phone lines started buzzing with an amazing possibility.
Gene Sullivan was being urged to run.
Sullivan lives in District 5, the seat Muns is leaving. Two candidates have signed up to run for the seat. But just the possibility of Sullivan entering the race was stunning. Fresh from retirement as Richmond County's associate superintendent, Sullivan -- a highly respected former Columbia County principal and 30-plus-year educator -- would have brought untouchable experience and unimpeachable character to the race.
It wouldn't have even been a race, really; it would have been a coronation. I'm sure candidates Mike Sleeper and Lou Ann Grove are fine people. But against Gene Sullivan? Their best bet would have been to just say, "Oh, OK. Never mind. I'll just get out of the way."
Alas, Sullivan -- who was reluctant at best to even consider running, especially so soon after his retirement -- decided to stay out of it this year. The push is on now to get him to consider an even bigger prize: the pursuit, in two years, of what is expected to be the new position of elected chairman of the school board.
Muns also has his eye on that post. But if Sullivan decides to run? Oh, never mind.
Anger didn't last
A couple of others "got away" from running this year, too -- and both are former members of the Board of Education well known for their outspokenness.
Former school trustee Larry Ogletree at one time talked about parlaying his anger over school discipline -- particularly at the school his son attended, Greenbrier High -- into a campaign for a return to office. He didn't.
Also staying out this year is another former school board member, Suzanne Scott, who was angry about Rhinehart's getting a liquor license and told me flatly after the vote that she was going to run against Diane Ford for county commissioner. Time passed, and Scott passed on running.
Anger is sometimes a good motivator for candidates, but it rarely translates into good government.
Wrong Bush hater
Speaking of anger, Lowell Greenbaum has a reason to be angry at me. I accused him last week of driving a gas-guzzling SUV with a sign blaming President Bush for high gas prices.
Greenbaum, chairman of Richmond County's Democrats, says it wasn't him and wants an apology for mistaken identity: I apologize.
The SUV's actual owner is Democrat Paul Cook, who admits he's since changed the sign.
Dr. Keith Moses
I'm saddened to note the recent passing of Dr. Keith Moses of Evans.
Dr. Moses and I strongly disagreed on Columbia County's annual designation of April as Confederate History Month. He urged county commissioners to reject the honor and wrote a letter to the editor reinforcing his views. Two years ago he also opposed placing a Confederate marker in front of the courthouse.
That was our only interaction, but it was enough to let me know he was a passionate, intelligent man. As is too rarely the case these days, Dr. Moses was not only willing to speak his mind, but had something to say when he did. And he did so without the nastiness that sullies so much public discourse.
Whether we agreed or not, it's a shame such a vibrant voice is stilled. I had planned next year to float past him the idea of naming April as Southern History Month instead of the more politically charged Confederate History Month; I'm sorry I'll never get the chance to find out if, for once, we could have agreed.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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