Let's settle this issue before one more e-mail is forwarded:
There is no creepy man in a white van stalking little girls in Walnut Hill or any other Columbia County subdivision.
This is an urban legend in the making, and demonstrates just how ready we are to leap to conclusions.
This particular tale started with a jogger, who says he saw a white van (or SUV) driving slowly in the neighborhood behind a young girl on her bicycle. The jogger supposedly went to question the suspicious driver, but the vehicle "sped off."
Since then, an e-mail about the encounter has skipped around the county, as the mysterious vehicle is spotted creeping through other neighborhoods.
News editor Preston Sparks checked on this Sept. 7, verifying with Columbia County Sheriff's Office Capt. Steve Morris that deputies were indeed on the lookout for a vehicle fitting that description.
Not long after that conversation, Morris called back to report that the vehicle and driver had been located - and to cancel any warnings related to it.
It turns out the vehicle was driven by an Augusta Chronicle delivery supervisor, who was stop-and-start riding through neighborhoods to check addresses and verify deliveries. (He might want to put a sign on his personal vehicle.)
There are two bits of good news here: One is that citizens are alert enough to watch for suspicious activities. The other is that this activity wasn't, after all, suspicious.
So stop forwarding those e-mail warnings, OK?
Cynthia won't run
Nearly two dozen candidates have announced their intentions to run for president next year.
Alas, Cynthia McKinney won't be one of them.
McKinney last week announced on her Web site (http://zapatopi.net/afdb/) that her decision not to seek the presidency as a the Green Party candidate comes only after "careful consideration."
Ah, well. In a way it's too bad she isn't running. She's not the kind of person we ever want to actually get elected (again), but having her around is kind of fun in an awkwardly embarrassing I-Love-Lucy way.
Incidentally, that isn't her real Web address above. Her real site is www.allthingscynthiamckinney.com.
A new mayor
So, the longtime mayor of a small Georgia city retires, and only one veteran city council member steps forward to seek the post.
Grovetown? Well, yes, but it's also the nearby city of Thomson, where Robert E. Knox Jr. has been mayor for an astounding 29 years. He's retiring, and the only candidate for the seat is longtime city council member Kenneth Usry.
In Grovetown, Dennis Trudeau is stepping down after 20 years. George James, a member of city council and the last person to run against Trudeau, is the only person to qualify to run for mayor.
Most had expected 17-year city council member David Daughtry to also run, but Daughtry decided to seek re-election to city council instead. Running against James meant one of them would lose, depriving the city of both Trudeau and one council veteran.
There still will be some competition, however. Daughtry, city council member Dick Manion and newcomer Bobby Newman are in the race for Daughtry's and Manion's two seats, with the top two vote-getters winning.
But here's the surprise of the week: Brian Martin and Rosa Lee Owens signed up to compete for James' vacated council seat, but Martin dropped out. So Owens, who has unsuccessfully run for other offices twice, will win this race by default.
Grovetown residents soon will be able to hear from all these candidates at a "stump meeting" sponsored by the city's Merchants Association. They've asked me to serve as moderator, so if you have any questions for the candidates, just let me know.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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