Harlem Mayor Scott Dean is a big fish in a very small pond. But he's thinking about testing some deeper waters.
Before leaving with his wife Renee for a trip across the "Big Pond" - flying across the Atlantic for a vacation in Italy - Dean said he was "floating the idea" of challenging Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross in the Republican primary.
Cross, Dean says, "Is vulnerable - with consolidation, with a lack of building a consensus before going forward."
To have any chance of exploiting that perception of vulnerability, however, Dean will need cash. "Raising the money is a significant issue," he says. "Ron can write a $100,000 check and run a campaign; I can't do that."
Many people have a misconception about the role of money in politics. Contrary to what cynics belief, it isn't for bribes and payoffs.
No, in politics, money is used for marketing in an effort to gain positive name recognition for candidates. Dean is well-known in and around Harlem, but the city has barely 2 percent of the county's population. He'll need to work hard to make a splash in much-larger Martinez and Evans.
Fortunately for Dean, a July primary race isn't sink or swim. He wouldn't have to resign as mayor to run for county commission chairman in July, and if he lost, he could still file in September for re-election for another term as mayor.
Will he take the plunge? Dean says he expects to decide in about a month.
One mayor who has already made a decision is Carmel Gibson, the 77-year-old mayor of Ducktown, Tenn. Gibson stepped down recently after serving 26 years, running unopposed in every election and, at his retirement, leaving the city of 400 with a more than $1 million surplus.
Gibson is the father of a very-proud Jeri Whitworth, of Evans, who organized the development-watchdog group CHANGE.
"Ducktown's government lost a great leader when Gibson resigned," the local paper there said of Whitworth's dad. "His shoes will be hard, if not impossible, to fill."
During Gibson's tenure, Whitworth points out, her father brought in more than $4.5 million in grants - but he didn't just sit behind a desk and shuffle paper. "He ran the dozer at the landfill, swept the streets and drove the garbage truck when needed. He repaired water lines and did electrical work, too."
All this on a mayoral salary of $400 per year.
Farewell to uncle
Another public servant recently departed under sadder circumstances.
Lloyd Hubert Paschal, my uncle, passed away Jan. 17. He had just returned from a trip to Disney World with his grandchildren and played a round of golf with friends, and shortly before heading to bed had a massive heart attack. He was 80.
Uncle Hubert lived in Monticello, Ga., and served four terms as the superintendent of schools for Jasper County. To my knowledge, he's the only one in my family who has ever run for or been elected to anything.
Uncle Hubert was my dad's oldest brother, the only one of his seven siblings who didn't reside in Columbia County; as a result, he was literally and figuratively more distant than my other uncles and aunts.
He always had an air of dignity and authority about him. But he also was a humble man, committed to serving his community, his church and his family.
Uncle Hubert was part of that dwindling "Greatest Generation" that served during World War II, and there is nothing sadder than hearing "Taps" played at such a funeral by a fellow old soldier. But it's heartening to know that Uncle Hubert's willingness to serve set an example for us all.
May he rest in peace.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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