The Halloween candy isn't yet gone and Thanksgiving is still three weeks away, but we're already planning Christmas.
This is the fifth year that the Christmas in America committee has held the Columbia County tree-lighting ceremony in Evans. It's a special event that provides a great time for community camaraderie.
It also has provided a unique forum of recognition. Each year we name our version of a grand marshal: the honorary tree-lighter.
The first year, 2001, the celebration occurred in the shadow of Sept. 11. The honorary tree lighters, then, were four members of local emergency services.
The second year, the tree-lighting fell on Dec. 7, so the tree-lighter was retired Col. Chaplin Calvin Garner, a Pearl Harbor survivor. Year No. 3 our tree lighters were Sheri Christine, on behalf of her husband, Bobby, who was serving in Iraq; and Jessica Callan, Miss Columbia County Fair. In 2004, the honorees were Reese Hoffa, a Lakeside graduate who had competed in the Olympics; and members of the state champion Greenbrier High School softball team.
This year the honorary tree-lighter is Justin Black.
Justin caught the final touchdown pass at the final game for Evans Middle School on its current field. But here's the real significance of Justin's participation: He came here with his family after Hurricane Katrina forced their evacuation from New Orleans.
As a way of welcoming Justin, along with the more than three dozen other Katrina evacuees attending Columbia County schools, the evacuees are invited to be honorary tree-lighters this year. I'm sure our community is ready to greet them with open arms.
Santa arrives at the Justice Center at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 3, and the festivities start an hour later.
North steps down
One of the more committed, energetic political players around is Teri North, who as of Thursday departs the post she's held for the past two years as founder and president of the Greater Columbia County Republican Women.
It used to be common that civic groups had parallels: The main organization and a women's auxiliary. The understanding was that the men conducted the business, and the auxiliary gave the wives something to do.
The GCCRW is no bunch of apron-wearing women shuffling pans in the kitchen while the men run the show, though; thanks to North's boundless energy, this group has put on programs and outreach initiatives that make it a powerful adjunct to the regular party membership.
Party Chairman Lee Muns certainly recognizes North's efforts. "The GCCRW, under Teri's leadership, has become very influential in local politics," Muns says. "Teri and the members of GCCRW can always be counted on to lend a helping hand whenever called upon. The Columbia County Republican Party would not be as effective if it were not for the women of GCCRW."
"But the best part about the GCCRW members and Teri, they will ask the tough questions and they expect a good answer," Muns adds. "Knowing Teri, she may be stepping down, but she will still be very involved. It's her nature!"
With next year's elections already shaping up to be big in Columbia County, with real Democratic Party competition possible for the first time in years, look for North and her colleagues to have significant impact.
Company you keep
Speaking of next year's elections, Georgia's Republican Party sent out a press release the other day revealing past campaign contributions from the households of Democratic gubernatorial candidates Mark Taylor and Cathy Cox.
The ugliest contributions: Cox's camp gave $2,500 to Cynthia McKinney; Taylor's gave $2,000 to Charles Walker Jr.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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