The cruel joke on Alzheimer's patients is that they can hide their own Easter eggs. I suppose it could also apply to people who just have rotten memories.
That's what makes it so fun for me to browse newspaper archives. Stumbling on all the stuff I'd forgotten is like finding treasure.
This trip down recent-memory lane started the other day as I was trying to pin down when Columbia County's Democrats last elected somebody to office (1994, when state Sen. Jake Pollard won his last term).
But I stumbled over one surprise en route: In retrospect, the most significant year ever in Columbia County politics might be 1992.
Why 1992? It was the first time there were more Republican primary voters than Democrats in Columbia County, which also set a record for General Election turnout with 81.6 percent of voters casting ballots. Here are the results:
- School Superintendent Tucker Vaughn lost re-election to Lynn Cadle - mostly because he was a Democrat. A state constitutional amendment in that same election changed the position to an appointed one, so Cadle goes down in history as Columbia County's last elected superintendent, its first and only female superintendent, and as the only superintendent ever elected as a Republican.
- To face Vaughn in the 1992 general election, Cadle defeated then-obscure South Columbia Elementary School Principal Linda Schrenko in the Republican primary. Schrenko returned in 1994 and was elected state school superintendent, becoming the first woman and first of two Republicans (with Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine) elected statewide in Georgia.
Ten years after that first defeat, Schrenko would lose in her quest to become Georgia's first female governor - and later go to federal prison for financing her campaign in part with funds stolen from federal grants.
- Also in 1992, Mary Sanders won a seat on the Columbia County school board, becoming the first and, to date, only black elected official in Columbia County's modern history. Along with Beth Trotter, also elected that year, Sanders joined Helen Hurd to create a first-ever majority female school board. Trotter later married Tom Dohrmann, the first appointed Columbia County school superintendent.
- Currently the longest-serving county commissioner, Republican Diane Ford was elected in 1992, beating Democrat Vernon Thomas - the only black man to seek county office in modern history. Ford plans to retire next year. She wasn't the first female commissioner; that distinction goes to Lillian Johnson, a Republican elected to a single term in 1988.
- State Rep. Joey Brush lost in the Republican primary to Martha Moore, who became Columbia County's first female member of the legislature. Her daughter, Deborah McCord, serves as the first female chairman of Columbia County's Republican Party. Moore, who served a single but highly productive term, passed away last November.
Other '92 notables:
- Chief Magistrate David Huguenin, a Democrat, won re-election in 1992 against Hal Morris, a Republican. Four years later, Huguenin switched parties; Morris ran as a Democrat and lost again. Morris then switched back to the GOP to run in 2006 after Huguenin retired - and lost again.
- Danny Craig, then a Democrat, won his first election in 1992 as district attorney in the three-county Augusta Judicial Circuit - but not in Columbia County, where Republican Bud Dent received 54 percent of the vote. Craig won circuit-wide on the strength of the Democratic vote in Richmond and Burke counties.
In that same election, then-District Attorney Mike Eubanks, a Republican, lost his race for superior court judge against newly appointed Carlisle Overstreet - including a 200-vote loss in his home Columbia County. Overstreet is now the circuit's chief judge.
- Otis Hensley, the county's first Republican sheriff, easily won re-election in 1992 despite being outspent nearly 2-to-1 in his second challenge from Democrat Sammy Doolittle. But Hensley's win was his last; he died of cancer less than three years later, and the appointed interim sheriff, Gloria Huffman, became the first and only female sheriff in county history.
All this doesn't include 1992's approval of the Georgia Lottery, the re-election of Bill Clinton and the last election in which a Democrat won Georgia's 10th congressional district (Don Johnson, who then lost two years later to Charlie Norwood).
Maybe we ought to print up some bumper stickers: "Where Were You in '92?"
Me? I don't remember.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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