We're losing one of the good guys.
Kevin Lear, Columbia County's director of Construction and Maintenance, leaves at the end of the month to take a job running the operations of the enormous Guilford County school district in Greensboro, N.C.,
"I got a great position, in a growing school district," Lear says. "That's what I had done before I came here. They have 120 schools, and the job there is chief operations officer. So it's buses and stuff like that, too. Like Charlie Nagle, only on a bigger scale."
Bigger? That's an understatement. It's like, oh, six times the number of schools overseen by Columbia County's assistant superintendent of student support, Charlie Nagle. Where Columbia County has a total of 27 schools, Guilford's elementary schools alone number 64 - and Lear will have to make sure all of them and the other schools are in proper working order. Yikes.
If anyone can do it, though, it's Lear. He's the remarkably patient, good-humored point man for every complaint about traffic and construction in Columbia County, and he handles it all with grace, patience and good humor.
"I know it's frustrating to see how long these things take; it is for me, let me tell you," Lear says. "But you just work with it, good or bad, and if the weather's bad, you just keep hoping for sunshine - in more ways than one."
As for Columbia County, we'll hope for an eventual replacement who can do the job as well as Lear. Three years ago, he stepped into some considerably large shoes after the death of the county's former construction and maintenance director, Nick Crawford. He leaves behind some pretty big shoes himself, regretting that moving up in the world means moving away.
"You've got to go a long way I guess any more to get a better job than you can get here in Columbia County, it's so nice," Lear says. He's helped make it that way, and Columbia County is better for it.
Best of luck to Kevin as he starts his new North Carolina post Nov. 9. (But suspend that luck three days later, when his Auburn alma mater plays Georgia.)
Hooray for partisans
Aw, come on. Why'd they bother with a press conference?
No one was surprised when Richmond County's Democrats, led by Lowell Greenbaum, endorsed Willie Mays in the "non-partisan" race for mayor.
After all, the socialists cheered just a couple of weeks ago when Mays said his administration would work to take from the "haves" and give to the "have-nots."
At least Mays is up front about his politics. One of the funnier things I read in the past week was all the dancing and squirming from Augusta's other three mayoral candidates when they were asked at a forum to declare a party affiliation. The post is non-partisan, so the politicians worry that they'll lose votes if they pick ideological sides.
This whole "non-partisan" thing is pretty silly. "Partisanship" isn't a dirty word. The idea of party affiliation is to give voters a general idea of where a candidate stands, and then allow the candidate to flesh out the details.
Without a party affiliation, candidates can avoid being pinned to any firm ideological ground. That turns races into personality contests - and gives us the government next door.
Remember that when you hear the calls for turning some Georgia offices - sheriff, coroner, clerk of court, probate judge - into non-partisan posts. It isn't, as some would suggest, a way to "take politics" out of office. It's just an attempt to put into office candidates who wouldn't win if they had to choose a team.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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