While it probably isn't of the magnitude of the loss of Augusta when it allowed a silly fiscal dispute to send Pam Tucker to Columbia County 10 years ago, it was still a significant blow to our community last week when Christina Rice announced her plan to retire.
Rice is the longtime director of Columbia County's libraries. While it's being called retirement, the story I'm hearing is that budget issues precipitated the quite unexpected departure.
Rarely are such things driven by a single event, and in this case the last straw seems to be that the county's budget-cutting efforts prevented Rice from filling a clerical opening on her staff.
Losing Rice is really a shame, because she built Columbia County's library system. Not the brick and mortar part, of course, though she was along for the planning; Rice was responsible for heading up the staff that has made the library what it is today.
Jeff Hardin, the former Library Board chairman, deservingly has received plenty of praise for building the momentum for the new library in Evans. But it was Rice who planned the nuts and bolts of making sure the building had what it needed to be the area's best and most-visited library.
It's also worth noting that Rice isn't the first high-level Columbia County government official to leave in recent months, willingly or unwillingly. We've also lost the county engineer, the head of roads and bridges and the planning director.
Whether it's retirements, budgets or just personalities, those departures are impossible not to notice. And especially in the case of Christina Rice, they're hard to take.
In the past year the county also has lost the head of the development authority and the chamber of commerce. Troy Post since has settled in as director of the development authority, replacing Zack Daffin, and the chamber is seeking a replacement for Karen Chrjapin.
There's a rumor now floating around that some folks want to hire Bob Young to fill the chamber vacancy.
Yep, that Bob Young - the former Augusta mayor and television anchorman who lost his job as an Republican-appointed federal official when Democratic President Barack Obama was elected. He's currently working as an overall-wearing extra over in Crawfordville on the set of the movie Get Low.
One of the occasional criticisms of Chrjapin was that she doesn't live in Columbia County; her residence is just across the Savannah River in McCormick County, S.C.
Young doesn't live in the county, either, and with the firm roots he and Realtor wife Gwen Fulcher Young have in Augusta's Hill area, they aren't likely to relocate.
Smiles at school
It brought back a lot of memories the other day to see photos from the Medical College of Georgia's "Miles of Smiles" program at a Richmond County school.
In the program, dentists and other professionals volunteer to provide free dental care to lower-income elementary school children. I hear that they're planning to visit Columbia County, too.
Not so long ago - well, more than 40 years ago - I was a patient of a similar program when a dentist and his assistant visited Appling Elementary School. I was too young to remember many of the details, but it was the first time I had seen a dentist.
These days, I cringe at the thought of more non-educational requirements being added to public schools almost as much as I shudder at the idea of a kid not having his or her own dentist long before elementary grades.
The Miles of Smiles program doesn't cost taxpayers anything, and doesn't take away from class time. And it might very well make the difference in the health of quite a few children.
By the way: When I was a kid, they would pass out little red pills that we would chew up; the red stuff supposedly would highlight where you needed to brush. Whatever happened to those things?
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.
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