Shortly after Ron Cross settled into the job as Columbia County Commission chairman in 2003, he called and asked me to stop by his office.
I trotted right on over; it's not very often that I get summoned to the summit of the Government Complex towers, looming over downtown Evans. (If a two-story building can "loom," that is.)
Besides, I hadn't forgotten that one of his supporters had invited me to join them for lunch before Cross had announced his candidacy, and I'd gotten the time wrong. When I showed up 30 minutes late, Cross seemed a little, well, cross. Didn't want that to happen again.
When I arrived at his office, Cross and County Administrator Steve Szablewski were looking over architectural drawings of Columbia County's proposed new library - and Cross looked worried.
Before entering his first-ever political race by seeking the newly created position of countywide elected chairman, Cross was in the commercial construction business. Lots of people mistakenly think he was a developer; he wasn't. His company built big buildings, including the county's biggest: The Justice Center, just a few steps away from his new office in the Government Complex.
Cross was justifiably proud of the courthouse, which represented his swan song in the commercial construction business; he shut the company down after taking office. And he was justifiably concerned that based on the drawings spread out on his table, the new library would be architecturally incompatible with the courthouse next door.
So, Cross wanted my opinion. Not because I had any particular aesthetic expertise, mind you - I'm surprised when my clothes match - but because I was one of the biggest public boosters of the new library.
Along with Jeff Hardin, the chairman of the county library board and without question the biggest booster of the new library, I had helped find money to get a set of preliminary architectural drawings of the proposed library.
The drawings were necessary, we felt, to show voters what was planned before the 1999 sales tax vote that funded the new library. Cross believed the exterior design of the library needed to be changed to better match the new courthouse - but he was worried that the public would be upset if its appearance was altered.
He was right about the need for change. While I liked the original design, it certainly didn't fit in with the courthouse. The Justice Center has a stately, formal look to it, but the early library design looked like a rehabilitated railroad depot.
Nothing wrong with rehabbed railroad depots, mind you; it's just that putting it next to the brand-new justice center would look like wearing sandals with a suit.
Still, Cross was worried. We'd shown off those drawings to the public, and he feared that the citizens would be upset when they eventually got a library that didn't look like the one they'd voted on.
It was just rookie jitters on his part. My view was that the public just wanted a library; they wouldn't care if the exterior looked different as long as the insides were full of books. Besides: Once it opened, no one would remember what the original design looked like anyway.
Thus reassured, Cross and commissioners had the exterior redesigned. Now open for business, it has big columns and other architectural cues similar to the courthouse, but enough unique features to stand out on its own.
Anyway, it's what's inside that's important (which is what the parents of all ugly kids tell them). (Ouch, that was mean.) (But funny; admit it.)
And the library certainly isn't ugly. The reassurance may be four years in the making, but Ron Cross can be reassured that he made the right call.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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