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August 22, 2002 Issue

Two incumbents overturned in election

County will hold runoffs in School Board District one and Commission District three races

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

After all votes were cast, reported and tallied, Jefferson County election officials reported that the majority of voters expressed their desire for change in three of the four contested local races.

The two commission races in Jefferson County ended in one upset and a runoff.

Challenger Gonice C. Davis defeated incumbent Commissioner Wynder Smith in the District 1 commission race with 567 votes to 513.

The race for the District 3 commission seat will be decided in a runoff Sept. 10 between incumbent Commissioner Paul Boulineau who received 267 votes and challenger Sidney Norton who received 283 votes. Also in the District 3 race Mary Mahoney received 220 votes and David Hastings received 61.

The District 1 Jefferson County School board race will also be decided in a runoff Sept. 10 between Donald Hatcher who received 365 votes and Larry "Bubba" McGraw who received 349 votes. Incumbent Moses Cheatham received 320 votes.

Incumbent school board Chairman Jimmy Fleming defeated challenger Phillip Broomfield 2,010 votes to 1,031.

Incumbent Walter C. McMillan received 1,966 votes in the local defeat of Macky Bryant with 965 votes in the race for Superior Court Judge. The complete Middle Judicial Circuit election results were not available at press time.

Another local victory went to incumbent state Rep. Jimmy Lord with 1,704 votes compared to 1,186 votes going to challenger Olin "Ronald" Jackson. The final results of this race were also unavailable.

Denise Freeman carried Jefferson County with 704 votes as the Democratic nominee in the 12th U.S. Congressional race. Chuck Pardue had 635 votes, followed by Ben Allen with 449, Charles "Champ" Walker with 366, Robert Finch with 281, Tony Center with 97 and Merwyn Scott with 95. The county's Republican voters supported Max Burns with 300 votes to Barbara Dooley's 216.

Glascock County' Republicans also supported Burns with 157 votes to Dooley's 64.

Pardue carried Glascock County's Democrats with 19 votes. He was followed by Walker with 12, Freeman with 10, Allen with 7, Finch with 5, Center with 2 and Scott with 0.

Wadley personnel hired, fired and arrested in one week

City dismisses administrator, hires police chief, employee arrested for DUI in city vehicle

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Small towns are said to move at a slow pace. But events in Wadley during the past week could not be described as such.

In a three-day period beginning Aug. 14 the city administrator was dismissed, an acting police chief was hired and a city employee was charged with driving under the influence in a city vehicle.

Administrator dismissed
Employed as city administrator since March 12, Carl Wagster said Aug. 14 that he had been fired hours earlier. His explanation for leaving is at odds with a statement made by Mayor Herman Baker near the close of business the same day.

"I thought we needed somebody with more experience in municipal government," Baker said Monday. "Some of the council felt the same way."

Baker said he had informed Wagster that he would no longer be employed as of Aug. 16. He said Wagster opted to leave immediately rather than finishing the week.

Wagster said the conversation went a different way. He said that action taken was a termination and that he planned to exercise his right to appeal.

"I was called in by the mayor and was told I was fired effective immediately," he said. "My recourse is to have an appeal hearing. I'll be submitting that request in the next few days."

Acting chief hired
The mayor made a move two days later that employed an acting-police chief when he hired 21-year law enforcement veteran and former Wadley part-time officer Ben Brown, who currently works full-time as a police lieutenant with the Sandersville Police Department.

The supervisory officer who had been responsible for officers for the past several months, Jefferson County Sheriff's deputy Gene Marsh, was training with his drug dog in Mississippi and said Sunday he had been unaware of the impending move.

Baker said his decision to hire Brown resulted from an incident Wednesday when there was no officer available to provide a bank escort.

Baker said he went to the police station but found no officer on duty even though Marsh's name was on the schedule. He said the only other name on the schedule was that of the officer scheduled to work the next shift.

Baker said he asked Brown, who was on the way to Wadley to meet with him on an unrelated matter, to stay and provide police coverage for a couple of days. He was later hired by Baker as acting-chief.

The mayor said he spoke to Marsh over the weekend and told him he hoped the officer would continue working for the city.

Commenting on the events of last week, Marsh said Tuesday that police department personnel were aware that he would be in training out of state and that another officer was scheduled to take his place.

Marsh said that officer had attended radar training that day and, by prior arrangement between the city and county, Sheriff's deputies were available to provide backup if needed.

City employee cited
An event occurred Friday that resulted in the arrest of a city employee for driving under the influence.

Mayor Baker said Monday that incident reports written by two on-duty officers prior to the arrest deviates somewhat from his understanding of the incident.

The incident reports, written by Sgt. Frankie Lampp and Patrolman Jason Bragg state that city employee Willie Jones arrived at the police department at approximately 10 a.m. to pick up a patrol car for servicing.

Officers noted a strong smell of alcohol. Mayor Baker entered the police department soon afterward, with Jones apparently having left the station without being allowed to take the vehicle.

The reports state that Baker was told about the alcohol smell and was advised not to let him drive. After the mayor left the station, officers saw the city pickup truck drive off with Baker and Jones inside and Jones driving. Acting Chief Brown was contacted and told them not to stop the pickup, saying that he would speak with the mayor about the situation.

Jones was pulled over approximately one hour later by a Sheriff's deputy after making a wide turn, running up onto the shoulder of the road and failing to use the turn signal. He was subsequently cited with a DUI charge with a blood alcohol level of .17. A DUI can be issued in Georgia for a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher.

Baker said Monday officers told him they smelled alcohol but did not advise him to refuse to allow Jones to drive a city vehicle. He said he rode with Jones on two occasions that morning but did not smell alcohol.

He intended to speak with Jones about the issue at the end of the workday had the arrest not occurred. Baker also acknowledged that he is currently being treated for sinus-related condition that may have prevented him from smelling alcohol.

Addressing the incident Monday, Acting Chief Brown said he had advised officers not to stop the truck. After speaking with Lampp, he made unsuccessful attempts to contact the mayor but said he was satisfied that the employee was taken off the road.

"I advised them not to stop him until further notice until I could receive my orders from the mayor, who I am familiar with as my superior," said Brown. "I made two attempts to contact the mayor. On the second attempt it was discovered that Jones was off the road after being pulled over by a county unit. Once that discovery was made I was satisfied with the issue and I felt like the obligations of getting a person under the influence off the road had been accomplished, whether it was accomplished by the city of Wadley or Jefferson County. I feel like our mission as law enforcement agencies to enforce the law was completed when (Jones) was arrested and taken off the road."

According to the school, 88 percent of Carver students voluntarily wore the new school uniform during the first week of school.

Uniforms popular at Carver Elementary

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A one-year pilot program at Carver Elementary School designed to promote self-esteem and unity is already showing signs of working after the first week of school.

Eighty-eight percent of Carver students wore the new school uniform, white shirts and blue pants or skirts, in the voluntary initiative created to put the focus on the long-term issues of learning rather than temporary flights of fashion.

"Unity of purpose among members of a community is so important," said Principal Shawn Johnson. "This effort is a display of unity by our parents who came together to support this effort and to put their children first.

"At the school level, it fosters self-esteem and helps children see that unity can bring people together and work productively as citizens. We want them to think independently and become problem solvers."

Johnson said school uniforms were proposed by the Carver school council after being studied by administrators for two years. A survey of parents showed support for the pilot program. Subsequent suggestions from the school board were accepted and the program was put in place. Johnson stressed that the effort is only voluntary. Parents make the decision about whether their child participates in the effort. Students wear uniforms throughout the week, excluding dress-down day each Friday. Teachers and staff are encouraged to wear the colors on Mondays, though some are wearing blue and white every day. The effort will be assessed at the end of the school year, Johnson said.

The new uniforms did not go unnoticed the first week by some of Wadley's long-time child and community advocates.

"I was just elated by what I saw," said Della Baker. "The uniforms make a positive statement and the children seem so happy. It takes some of the attention away from what they are wearing and puts it where it should be, on what they are studying."

Wadley resident Josephine Johnson also sees merit in the school uniform effort. She was at school bus stops and later at Carver to see the changes for herself.

"I think it's great," she said. "This will bring attention to all the children and emphasizes the similarities between them instead of the differences."

Statewide water restrictions still in effect

By Elizabeth Howard

Despite recent showers, Georgia's fourth consecutive summer of drought brought signs of little recovery and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is not reducing the current restrictions on outdoor watering.

Since June of 2000 a statewide water ban has been in place that applies to residential water users and businesses that water their lawns and shrubs.

It calls for a daily 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. ban on outdoor water use and operates on an odd-even schedule.

Under the odd-even schedule, homes and businesses with even numbered street addresses may water on even numbered calendar days while those with odd numbered addresses may water on odd days, except during the restricted hours.

The ban does not apply to commercial uses of water such as commercial car washes, commercial pressure washing and commercial nurseries. Also the ban does not apply to outdoor water use for fundraisers such as church or school car washes. The ban does apply to the watering of golf course fairways, but allows for the misting of greens. It does not apply to owners of private wells, though EPD asks that they too abide by the restrictions.

Local authorities are responsible for enforcing the restrictions and also have the authority to expand or modify them.

The conditions of the statewide ban apply to the cities of Jefferson and Glascock Counties, with the exception of Gibson.

The residents of Gibson are restricted to watering between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

According to Albert Frazier Jr., Program Manager for the East Central District of the EPD, Georgia is approaching stability in the water levels, but because this is the fourth summer of drought, it will take much longer to fully recover. Disregarding the restrictions will worsen the drought.

"It's going to take a lot more than a few good months of rain to catch up," he said.

Further information on the drought and on conserving water can be found at the official state website, www.georgiadrought.org.

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