Last April, in this space, The News-Times recognized Dr. Jefferson Hardin for his work in bringing to fruition the county's new main library.
The timing of those accolades was that the then-chairman of the county's Library Board had penned a guest column thanking everyone for helping in the concept and construction of the library, but he'd humbly left himself out in his list of the praiseworthy.
The facility is truly the achievement of a lifetime. And now Hardin, who worked harder on it than anyone, has been honored as the 2006 winner of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award.
The honor truly could not go to a more deserving person. What's even more amazing is that Hardin beat the drums for construction of that new library entirely as a volunteer.
Hardin, who served in Vietnam and went on to a successful career in dentistry, had already retired from his teaching post at the Medical College of Georgia before taking on the role as chairman of the library board.
One of his first actions was to push for a study of the county's library needs. The library staff and users already knew the growing county had outgrown the main Gibbs Library, but it took a professional consultant's study to prove it to public officials (including, at the time, one political candidate who thought Gibbs was a private facility!).
Part educator, part salesman, Hardin made sure copies of that study were widely distributed, and continued persistently hammering home the point that Columbia County lagged badly in serving its citizens.
The first of many incremental triumphs came when state Rep. Ben Harbin secured funding, at Hardin's request, for conceptual drawings of a new library. Those drawings helped show the public what could be coming, and citizens responded with overwhelming support in a 1999 sales-tax referendum.
In the meantime, Hardin persuaded Jabez Sanford Hardin - no relation - the son of Columbia County's former school superintendent, to donate half a million dollars for the new facility, helping to add the performing arts center to the project.
It took a while for the sales tax money to roll in and for construction to begin, but finally the library opened its doors to the public nearly a year ago - and no one could have been happier than Hardin, who soon retired from his post on the library board.
Scholarly, personable and far-sighted, Dr. Jefferson Hardin could not be a better representative for what is good and right in Columbia County. He well deserves the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, along with the gratitude of a community much enriched by his efforts.
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