Pam Tucker, among others, spread the sad news the other day that the Peppermill Restaurant in Evans had closed its doors for good. It seems the business had been struggling lately, with fickle diners spending more time checking out all the new dining establishments in the county.
It didn't help that the Peppermill was tucked away in the little strip shopping center near Wal-Mart, a far less visible location than many of the new places along Washington Road.
The closure is such a shame. The owners were extraordinarily generous, holding their annual TurkeyFest fund-raiser for local food banks. And their food was really good, too.
There's one bit of collateral damage from the closure: The Columbia County Republican Party will have to find somewhere else big enough to hold its monthly meetings.
The party formerly met at Dye's Fish Camp - which also closed. Coincidence?
Speaking of Republicans, the buzz around state political circles last week as the 2007 legislative session began was whether House Speaker Glenn Richardson would run for re-election, or resign in disgrace and slink off to anonymity.
He chose to run, easily winning another turn as the first Republican speaker - even picking up the votes of 10 Democrats for what reporters said "typically is a party-line vote," forgetting that former speaker Tom Murphy "typically" received votes from a handful of fawning Republicans.
The disgrace that was supposed to scare Richardson away was an allegation, made by the outgoing chairman of the state Democratic Party, that Richardson had an improper relationship with a female lobbyist.
Without more substance to a charge that Richardson dismisses as partisan politics, he'll keep his post. If it had happened otherwise, the implications for Columbia County could have been pretty big.
Consider: If the next man in line, Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter, moved up the ladder, he likely would be replaced by Majority Leader Jerry Keen. That would move state Rep. Barry Fleming, of Harlem, the majority whip, up to the No. 3 leadership post.
Additionally, state Rep. Ben Harbin of Evans, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, would gain even more clout: In the original fight for speaker last year, Harbin was the only member of the local delegation to back Burkhalter.
In any event, it doesn't look like the allegations against Richardson are going to get much traction. But from Columbia County's perspective, having the power of Fleming and Harbin already is pretty strong stuff.
Fleming, by the way, is widely rumored to be a leading candidate in the event U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood decides to retire.
Anyone waiting on that to happen, however, had better be patient. As Congress went back into session last week, Norwood immediately began raining down fire and brimstone on the new Democrat majority.
Earlier, Norwood had made it clear that he looked forward to the possibility of working with Democrats on shared issues, and voiced his disgust at the waywardness of tax-and-spend Republicans who squandered their 12-year majority - one that began when Norwood was elected in 1984.
But when new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was sworn in, Norwood wasted no time in accusing her of working "to suppress political opposition" by forcing through first-day votes that bypassed the committee system and refusing to allow amendments from the floor.
"This is deceitful, unjust and intolerable," Norwood thundered.
Despite treatment for cancer that follows his well-publicized lung transplant, Norwood still is very much a fighter - and even seems to enjoy his new role in the minority party.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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